A Spanish teacher from North Carolina who has been missing in Mexico since late October was reportedly killed by the Sinaloa cartel, according to Mexican authorities.
Patrick Braxton-Andrew, 34, was last seen Oct. 28 when he left his hotel for a walk in the small mountain mining village of Urique, about 450 miles southwest of Juárez.
Investigators believe Braxton-Andrew was killed by a narco-trafficker from the cartel named José Noriel Portilo Gil, also known as “El Chueco,” according to a Facebook post from Javier Corral, the governor of Chihuahua.
“Under the progress in the investigation, I can say that it was a cowardly and brutal murder, of a totally innocent person, a clean man whose misfortune was to cross paths with this rascal,” Corral wrote Thursday.
A Facebook page dedicated to finding Braxton-Andrew confirmed his death, and said the search continues to recover his body and find those responsible. Braxton-Andrew’s family thanked the Chihuahua Governor and the Attorney General for their commitment to finding him.
“Patrick died doing what he loved — traveling and meeting people. Join us in celebrating his life as he would want us to do,” the post read. “We will always remember Patrick and his joy for life. We love you PBA.”
Braxton-Andrew was fluent in Spanish, had traveled extensively in Latin America and was a 2006 graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina.
Urique, where he was last seen, is a town in the state of Chihuahua. The southwestern mountains of Chihuahua have been the location of drug cartel-related violence associated with conflicts over the control of drug production and illegal logging.
Back in Braxton-Andrew’s hometown of Davidson, North Carolina, a community is grieving.
At Davidson’s town hall, flags flew at half-mast in honor of Braxton-Andrew. Woodlawn School, where Braxton-Andrew taught Spanish, canceled classes on Friday and provided counselors for grieving students and staff.
His best friend, Sandi Rosen-Wilson, who taught alongside him at Woodlawn, told WCNC-TV she knows his legacy will continue on.
“He had this ability to just make anybody who he was around feel like they were his number one,” she said.
Rosen-Wilson remembers her last conversation with Braxton-Andrew.
“A couple hours before he went missing on Sunday we were just texting,” she recalled. “We told each other how much we love each other and how much we missed each other and that’s just what I’ve been clinging onto is that I got that tiny bit of closure.”
Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox echoed the sadness, telling WCNC-TV, “Our town lost a son, a part of what makes our little town special.”
In 2016, the Mexican army established a new military police camp in an attempt to improve security in the mountain region.