John and Andra Patterson had been living in Hermosillo, Mexico, for just two months when the 31-year-old John, a new member of the United States Foreign Service, was kidnapped. It was March 22, 1974, and as Brendan I. Koerner writes in a lengthy piece for the Atlantic, he was the 6th diplomat to be kidnapped in just under a year, a time during which President Nixon famously declared that the US would not negotiate with terrorists. That was potentially a problem in Patterson's case. A note, written in John's hand, had been delivered to the consulate demanding that Andra deliver $500,000 in person to the kidnappers, who claimed to be members of the People's Liberation Army of Mexico. The government wouldn't pay up, but Patterson's family could, and his widowed mother managed to secure $250,000—the first installment that Andra was to deliver.
Except the kidnappers never showed. Koerner charts a series of failed attempts to connect with the kidnappers, along with the US government's growing suspicion that this was actually a "self-kidnapping": one cooked up by John and Andra to get a boatload of money from John's family, especially as no one had actually heard of the People's Liberation Army of Mexico. But by mid-May, "the FBI was having a radical change of heart about the case," writes Koerner—and had a suspect in mind. That would be Bobby Joe Keesee, a serial liar and thief who, among other things, went AWOL from the US Army, tried to obtain asylum in Cuba, and hijacked a plane in Thailand and demanded he be taken to North Vietnam, where he ended up in the Hanoi Hilton. The FBI was correct, just far too late. Keesee had indeed taken Patterson, and murdered him. The story doesn't end there. (Read Koerner's full piece.)