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Missing American's wife provides detailed statement to authorities

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Falcon Lake widow's 8-hour interview
  • NEW: Tiffany Hartley is set to finish her statement Monday
  • She says she did not feel intimidated or interrogated
  • She gave an eight-hour interview to authorities
  • "We just want David back," she says
  • Mexico
  • Shootings

(CNN) -- The wife of an American reportedly shot dead by gunmen believed linked to a Mexican drug gang gave an eight-hour interview and provided a detailed statement to federal and state authorities in Mexico, she said Monday.

Tiffany Hartley told CNN's "American Morning" she gave a detailed account of what happened on September 30, from the time she and her husband David left their McAllen, Texas, home until she left a sheriff's office that night.

She said she is scheduled to meet with authorities again Monday to finish up the statement.

Hartley recounted the incident Monday, saying she and her husband headed to Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, that day to "enjoy a day on the lake." The two decided to ride their personal watercraft to the Mexican side of the lake to see a historical church there, she said.

But she said the couple was confronted by three boats, and gunmen aboard began firing shots at them when they tried to flee the area. She said she saw her husband shot, and attempted to pull him on board her watercraft.

"After they shot David I turned my Jet Ski around so I could go and help him," she said. But a boat approached her and the person on board pointed a gun toward her, then left. She attempted to get her husband on board, but fled when she saw the boats returning.

She said she had to pass the three boats while attempting to get back to the U.S. side of the lake. By the time she got there, she could not see what was taking place back at the scene, she said Monday. "The boats chased me pretty much all the way to the U.S. border or past it," she said.

David Hartley's body has not been found, despite extensive searches by both U.S. and Mexican authorities.

Brian Quigley, spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, Mexico, said Saturday that Tiffany Hartley is "fully cooperating in assisting Mexican prosecutors with their investigation." Her Friday interview with officials from the federal attorney general's office and prosecutors from Mexico's Tamaulipas state was held in the FBI field office in McAllen. It took place the day after Mexican authorities said they were suspending the search for David Hartley.

"Mexican authorities told the U.S. Consulate that the suspension of the search was only temporary and would continue at a later date," Quigley said. "We are going to hold them to that."

Tiffany Hartley's mother, Cynthia Young, said earlier that she, Tiffany Hartley and the woman's father met with Mexican and American officials Friday, and the family was told that the Mexican government was "restrategizing" how it was handling the search for Hartley's body.

Tiffany Hartley met with Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, the lead Mexican investigator in the death of her husband, days before Flores was killed. His severed head was delivered to authorities in a suitcase last week.

However, authorities vowed to continue to search. On Friday, Tamaulipas state attorney general spokesman Ruben Dario Rios said the suspension was a "temporary recess so that we can better assess the strategies we are using to find the body." Responding to local reports that threats of imminent gun battles by the Los Zetas drug cartel might have led officials to suspend the search, Dario Rios said, "Negative."

Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. has said Mexican authorities may have been trying to intimidate Tiffany Hartley during the in-depth interview Friday and scare her into not pushing them to continue the investigation.

But Tiffany Hartley denied that Monday, saying authorities just wanted detailed information about the day -- "where we had stopped and who we talked to, that kind of thing. I didn't feel like it was an interrogation, and I really hope they do continue the search and continue their investigation." She said she did not get a sense that authorities were questioning her account.

"We just want David back," Tiffany Hartley said. "... I think they do want to find whoever, but ultimately I don't really care if they find the person because I know in time, they'll have their day [of judgment]."

A report issued by a Texas-based think tank last week suggested that Hartley's death may have stemmed from a case of mistaken identity in the ongoing war between two Mexican drug cartels.

The Stratfor report, which cites anonymous sources, noted that David Hartley worked for an oil and gas company with operations in Reynosa, Mexico. The couple had lived there for two years and had only moved to McAllen within the past few months, the report said. The truck they drove to Falcon Lake on September 30 still had a license plate from Tamaulipas state.

The couple drove their personal watercraft to the Old Guerrero area of the lake, which the report said is a "known battleground in the ongoing war in the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels."

The sources told Stratfor both cartels have been known to conduct surveillance and countersurveillance operations on personal watercraft, so Zetas scouts identified them as possible Gulf spies, because of their license plate and their method and direction of travel on Falcon Lake. They were then apparently confronted by "Zetas enforcers," Stratfor said.

The sources told Stratfor the attack was unauthorized by senior Los Zetas members and "a damage control campaign is currently under way ... to identify and eliminate those who engaged the Hartleys without proper authorization." Protocol involves prompt disposition of a body to ensure no evidence can be brought against the group, the report said.

Falcon Lake is about 70 miles west of the Hartleys' home in McAllen.

CNN's Eric Fiegel contributed to this report.