Plemmons, a dual citizen, had moved to Mazatlan, a coastal town in the Northwestern Mexico state of Sinaloa, to work for El Debate, a local newspaper. He took photos of crimes scenes, many of them linked to the drug cartels, and began to track the movements of the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas' main rival for control of Mexico's drug trade. More than 50,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war since 2006 as the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel and other lesser drug organizations fight for turf.
Plemmons had apparently traveled from Mazatlan, in Sinaloa cartel territory, to Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas headquarters on the Texas border, in May for both work and personal reasons. He had taken his photographic gear with him, but also planned to visit relatives living nearby.
His family became concerned and reported his disappearance when the relatives he planned to visit never heard from him. El Debate finally made his disappearance public on June 22.
"He was a crime scene photographer, so I know he had seen a lot of graphic things," Lizanne Sanchez told the Fox TV affiliate in San Antonio. "He felt strongly about letting the world see the violence drug cartels are creating in Mexico."
"The fact that he's a U.S. citizen gives me hope that he's got to still be alive," Michael Sanchez, his brother-in-law, told the Fox station. "I'd like to think as crazy as it is down there they don't just kill U.S. citizens."