Oct. 5, 2010 -- A U.S. woman whose son was shot in the head by Mexican pirates while boating on a border lake in Texas is begging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help her, "mother to mother."
The body of David Michael Hartley, 30, has yet to be recovered days after he was killed by teenage pirates on Falcon Lake after he and his wife, Tiffany Hartley, crossed the border on their Jet Skis. U.S. officials said they're prohibited from entering into Mexican waters to search for his body and Mexico said it doesn't have the money to look.
"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" today.
"To Hillary -- mother to mother -- help me bring my son home, please," she said, crying. "She's a mother, she would know."
Tiffany Hartley, 29, said they dismissed warnings about crossing into the Mexican side of the lake to take pictures of a historic church, as part of her husband's history hobby. As they made their way back to the U.S. border, they were approached by three boats of fully-armed pirates.
"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 U.S. side but to no avail.
"We need to get on the Mexico side so we can search for him," Pam Hartley said.
The state of Texas had warned boaters and fisherman as far back 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.
San Antonio dentist Richard Drake said he made sure to stay on the U.S. side of the same lake while fishing in a tournament in May, but pirates attempted to lure him across the border by pretending to be Mexican authorities.
"I turned and looked over my shoulder ... three guys in a bass boat with machine guns waving and yelling at me, 'Pull over! Pull over!" he said.
Texas' Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez put it simply: "Stay away from Mexico. It's as simple as that."
A Recent Increase in Violence
Hartley said both she and her husband knew of the warnings.
"We've heard of pirates and stuff being over there before. But we hadn't heard anything for several months," she said. "I know David. He would never put me in a position that might be dangerous."
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 so far this year, although this is the first reported case of a death.
The sheriff said many of the pirates are teens or pre-teens, and some "barely even know how to use a weapon."
But despite that, he said he has long feared that someone would be killed.
"The one thing I dreaded on Falcon Lake has happened," he said. "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."
According to ABC Rio Grande, Texas, affiliate KRGV-TV, there have been at least four previous incidents on the lake in the past five months:
April 30: Four heavily armed men boarded two boats near the Old Guerrero area demanding money.
May 6: Two armed men approached a boat and demanded cash.
May 16: Five armed men boarded a boat on the United States side of the lake.
Aug 31: Pirates, using a small boat marked "Game Wardin" tried to stop a Texas fisherman.