Search for Body Continues in Mexican Pirate Attack

Mexican cops called off news conference to release names, likely fearing cartel.

ByDean Schabner, Ryan Owens, Gina Sunseri and Lee Ferran
October 10, 2010, 8:04 AM

Oct. 10, 2010— -- Family of the Texas man allegedly killed in a Mexican pirate attack said today it doesn't believe anyone will ever be arrested, even though officials south of the border have named two suspects.

"I doubt that they ever make an arrest," said Bob Young, father-in law of David Hartley, whose wife, Tiffany, says he was gunned down by marauding pirates 10 days ago when the two were Jet Skiing on Falcon Lake, along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I don't know, and as far as finding the body all we can do is hope," Young said.

Just days after questioning Tiffany Hartley's account of the incident, Mexican investigators said Saturday night they had identified two Zeta drug cartel members as suspects in David Hartley's killing.

But officials unexpectedly called off a news conference Saturday night at the last minute, and instead quietly released the information about the suspects.

"It is surely because of the danger posed to everyone by the cartels taking revenge on anyone following up the case," one Mexican journalist who has covered the country's drug wars told ABC News in an e-mail.

Mexican investigators have not found David Hartley's body or the Jet Ski he was riding, and have had their search interrupted more than once by attacks from suspected drug cartel gunmen.

Tiffany Hartley said today she at least hopes that with the naming of the suspects, Mexican police might be able to find her husband's body.

"I hope that its going to, you know, bring David home," she said. "Hopefully, they can tell us where he is and locate, you know, where he's at so we can kind of end this. As long as we find him, you know, then we can at least kind of bring some closure to this."

The two suspects were identified Saturday night as Pedro Saldiva Farrias, 27, and his brother, Jose Manuel Saldiva Farrias, whose age was not given.

Juan Carlos Ballesteros, an investigator with the state prosecutor's office of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, said both were said to be suspected members of the Zeta drug cartel from Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, near the abandoned town where David and Tiffany Hartley were sightseeing before they were ambushed.

Early on in the case, Mexican police had questioned Tiffany Hartley's account of the incident on Sept. 30, saying they could find neither her husband's body nor his Jet Ski, after she said she had to abandon him on Falcon Lake as the marauding pirates approached.

An eyewitness come forward late last week, claiming that he saw Tiffany Hartley fleeing in panic to the American side of the lake.

"I saw the Jet Ski come around an island," the witness told "Good Morning America" Thursay. "There was something wrong actually. The way I saw her come around, it looked like something terribly wrong happened. I mean, she was jittery, frantic. ... She was crying, sobbing."

As a safety precaution, the witness spoke in shadow and with voice alteration to avoid identification, because he said he feared for his life.

What the witness did not see -- what apparently no one but the alleged victims and attackers saw -- was what exactly happened on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Mexico.

Tiffany Hartley said she and her husband took Jet Skis to the Mexican side of the lake to take pictures of a small church when suddenly a band of Mexican pirates opened fire on them with assault rifles.

Tiffany Hartley Returns to Site of Shooting

In a heartwrenching 911 call, Hartley tells the dispatcher that her husband has been shot in the head and that she is too weak to pull his body up onto her Jet Ski. She was forced to abandon him there.

Tiffany Hartley returned for the first time Wednesday to the location where she said her husband was killed last week.

"It was hard, just remembering everything about us going in to go take pictures and enjoying the sunny day and enjoying the nice weather," Tiffany Hartley, wife of missing David Hartley, told "Good Morning America" today, just hours after returning from the emotional trip.

Surrounded by a flotilla of police and politicians, Tiffany Hartley looked somber as she gazed at the water -- the last place she saw her husband alive.

In the days since the alleged attack, Hartley has defended herself from those who question the credibility of her story.

"It's hard to believe that they don't believe me, but it is a story that most people don't understand, that pirates would be on a lake, that the cartel[s] are taking over Mexico. It's a story that people don't understand unless they're on that border."

U.S. officials said they're prohibited from entering Mexican waters to search for the body.

In addition to President Obama, David Hartley's mother, Pam Hartley, has issued a public plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking for aid in bringing her son's body home.

"He needs to come home and we're begging the Mexican government, the governor of Texas, President Obama," the man's mother, Pam Hartley, told "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

"To Hillary -- mother to mother -- help me bring my son home, please," she said, crying. "She's a mother, she would know."

Couple Disregarded Warnings About Danger

David Hartley was a history buff. Tiffany Hartley, 29, said she and her husband dismissed warnings about crossing into the Mexican side of the lake so they could take pictures of a historic church. She said it had been some months since they had heard reports of pirates being on the lake.

According to Hartley, while they were making their way back to the U.S. border, the couple was approached by three boats of fully armed pirates, she said.

"David and I were racing back to the U.S., and they started shooting," she told "Good Morning America." "I looked back, and I saw that David had been shot, and I turned around to go get him."

Hartley said she tried as hard as she could to pull her husband onto her own Jet Ski to take him to safety, "but he's a lot bigger than me.

"You can't imagine how awful it was not being able to help him," she said.

Knowing her own life was in jeopardy, Hartley said she was forced to abandon her husband. She took her Jet Ski at top speed back to the U.S. shore and placed a panicked 911 call.

U.S. authorities have searched Falcon Lake on the American side, to no avail.

The state of Texas had warned boaters and fisherman as long ago as April to stay away from the Mexican side of the lake. Since then, the drug wars along the border have gotten more violent and there have been reports of more pirate encounters.

Lake Has Become Pirate's Haven

Falcon Lake, part of the Rio Grande situated directly on the Texas-Mexico border, has recently become a haven for the pirates, and there have been at least five reported run-ins with pirates on the lake this year, although this is the first reported death.

"The one thing I dreaded on Falcon Lake has happened," Texas' Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said days after the attack on the Hartleys. "The lake is not secure, the border is not secure because the incident that I dreaded the most has, in fact, happened. We cannot go to Mexico, we cannot recover that body, we cannot conduct an investigation, we have to tell the family we can't do anything about it."

ABC News' Kevin Dolak and Sarah Netter, as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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