A mother's optimism was for naught: Patrick Braxton-Andrew, the North Carolina teacher who vanished in Mexico on Oct. 28, was killed that day by "a criminal organization" in Chihuahua state, his family writes in a Facebook post, citing information provided by state authorities. "The search continues to recover his body so we can bring him back home," the family adds. No arrests have been made, but Chihuahua governor Javier Corral identifies the suspect as José Noriel Portilo Gil or "El Chueco," a drug trafficker linked to the Sinaloa cartel in the region of Urique, per the Washington Post. Braxton-Andrew, 34, had traveled solo to Urique to see a series of canyons. "It was a cowardly and brutal assassination of a person who was totally innocent, a clean man whose misfortune was to cross paths with this criminal," says Corral.
The tutor and part-time teacher at Woodlawn School in Mooresville, who failed to join his brother in Mexico City on Oct. 30, is known to have hiked on Oct. 28 before reaching an Internet cafe, signing off around 3:30pm. He briefly returned to his hotel, departing around 4pm with only a few items. Though Chihuahua has been home to cartel-related violence, the guidebook Braxton-Andrew used stressed that most violence wasn't targeted at tourists and an American couple who met him in the area said they never felt in danger, mother Jean Braxton told the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday, before the revelation. A fluent Spanish speaker who'd traveled extensively through Latin America, including on a 13-month backpacking trip, "Patrick died doing what he loved—traveling and meeting people," the family now writes. (Read more on the Sinaloa cartel here.)