Authorities try to determine whether body found in Mexico is that of missing American
Harry Devert was on a motorcycle ride through Mexico
Family and friends in New York have not heard from him in months
His last message mentions getting an "escort out of some area"
Harry Devert left a job as a trader in finance to take a transcontinental motorcycle journey from the United States to Latin America.
Devert, 32, vanished six months ago after sending his girlfriend an ominous text message from a troubled region in Mexico, describing how he was being escorted from “an area too dangerous for me to be.”
Mexican authorities, acting on tips, on Thursday located his green Kawasaki motorcycle in a shallow grave in the state of Guerrero, along with the badly decomposed remains of a man in two plastic bags, said Darren Del Sardo, an attorney for Devert’s mother.
The identity of the body has not been confirmed, said a statement from the Guerrero office of public safety. The discovery was made nearly 300 miles southwest of where Devert was last heard from in January.
“We don’t know whether it’s Harry or not,” Del Sardo said.
On Saturday, Devert’s mother Ann was to fly to Mexico after identifying the VIN number on the motorcycle found in Mexico. A day earlier she provided a DNA sample to police in New York to match against the remains.
“She’s just remaining hopeful as any mother would,” Del Sardo said. “One way or another, she’s hoping for either closure or hoping that she’s at least one step closer to finding him due to the fact the motorcycle was found.”
Del Sardo said Ann Devert spent time in Mexico after her son’s disappearance, meeting local authorities and residents in the western Mexican state of Michoacan in an attempt to find him. There was hope with unconfirmed tips that he was being held at a ranch. Last week, she learned of the remains and the bike in the shallow grave.
Mexican authorities said the motorcycle was found along a road leading to La Majahua beach in Guerrero. The statement said “10 packages of what appeared to be narcotics (marijuana and cocaine)” were found near the motorbike and body.
Del Sardo said Ann Devert was told that the remains may have been moved to the shallow grave.
“She’s keeping her spirits up at this point and, most importantly, hoping that she gets confirmation one way or another as soon as possible,” he said.
Devert, 32, had not been in touch with his mother or girlfriend in New York since January 25. That day he sent girlfriend Sarah Ashley Schiear a text message via the WhatsApp messenger app.
“Just got an hour and a half long escort out of some area it was too dangerous for me to be,” the message said. “Stopping for lunch and … voila Internet. … Gonna get back on the road soon. Apparently there’s another military escort waiting for me in some other town… I’m running way late because of the crazy military stuff…hopefully get a chance to talk to you tonight when I (hopefully) finally arrive.”
He had checked out of a bed and breakfast in Michoacan and planned to travel to a beach in Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific Ocean, that was in the final scene of the film “The Shawshank Redemption,” according to friends and family.
Ann Devert last heard from her son January 23. The phone connection was poor. He told her he’d be out of cell phone and Internet range for a few days.
She told CNN earlier this year that he would call every January 29, his late father’s birthday, “and when he didn’t, I felt a misgiving but I thought maybe it would take a couple of days,” she said. “He didn’t call.”
Then, Ann Devert heard from a friend who recently returned from Michoacan, where vigilante self-defense groups in numerous communities have engaged in deadly confrontations with the Knights Templar drug cartel.
After vigilantes threatened to descend on a key cartel area last month, the Mexican government sent in thousands of troops and police to try to keep the peace. The government has even joined forces with the vigilantes as the Knights Templar become further entrenched in the agricultural state.
Ann Devert had been in touch with both the American and French embassies in Mexico. Her son, born in France, has dual citizenship.
Devert’s friends and family were hopeful that his disappearance was only temporary, another story to recount from his wild travels around the world – from Pamplona, Spain, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and beyond.
“I’ve been chased with a gun in Colombia, chipped my tooth on a gun that was shoved in my mouth in Venezuela and shot everything from a bazooka to a machine gun, an M16 to a Colt .45,” Devert wrote in his travel blog, A New Yorker Travels. “I’ve been in some of the poorest and some of the most dangerous parts of the world and to many of the finest, and I still can’t tell which I liked more. I think that life is a pilgrimage.”
In an October 19 post, Devert described his latest journey on a type of vehicle he had no experience using.
“I’ve never ridden a motorcycle,” he wrote. “Mostly, naturally, because I don’t know how. So tomorrow I’m going to go to the DMV, get my motorcycle permit, buy a bike and hopefully figure out how to ride it home without crashing. Which I’m sure will be an adventure in itself.”
He added, “Then in the next 2 or 3 weeks I’m going to drive it across America, through Central America, down to Brazil for the World Cup, and eventually south to Ushuaia, which as far as I can tell from a map is about as far south as one can get on the continent.”
He purchased a green 2002 Kawasaki. Ann Devert said her son took a safety course and spent hours studying YouTube videos on how to survive falls from bikes.
But the fact that he had never driven a motorcycle concerned her, she said. He promised not to travel faster than 55 mph, yet he took a nasty spill while speeding in Florida, Ann Devert said. He emerged unscathed.
Friends and family created the Help Find Harry page in Facebook, with more than 25,000 likes.