tv CNN Presents CNN September 8, 2013 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
closed. they believe that they did it. but for those who don't, there is that lingering question. if the west memphis three didn't kill those boys, then who did? e >> are you sure that your husband got shot? >> yes, he was hit in his head. >> a brutal killing on a glistening lake. >> you saw your husband get shot and thrown from the jet ski? >> yes. >> were they caught in a cross fire? >> it is a war over there, the two cartels fighting each other for control. >> a drug deal gone bad?
or was this cold-blooded murder? >> there has been a lot of suspicions based on some of her behaviors. >> tonight, a cnn special report. murder in mexico. what happened at falcon lake? it is late afternoon in mcallen, texas. air operations are about to begin. >> there is some areas in mcallen, west of mcallen, southwest border, that are completely out of control, in my opinion. >> captain stacey holland and his team are trying to stop drug
smugglers from crossing into the u.s. from mexico. >> one guy got out -- >> they are also trying to stop the violence of a full-scale drug war from spilling north. are there parts of this border that you would deem basically lawless or run by the cartels? >> absolutely. smack in the middle of this 21st century version of the wild west, two young american, david hartley, and tiffany young, just teenagers when they fell in love. >> we started dating in '98, the summer of '98 and dated for quite a while before we got engaged in 2001 and married in 2002. >> what took so long? >> we were 18. >> they wound up here in the mexican border town of reynoso, just south of mcallen, he was a
district manager for an oil company. >> it was a blessing to our marriage, that is where we truly grew as a couple and had adventures. >> when the hartleys first arrived here, this peaceful town was a perfect place for the young couple to live, but slowly it became more and more violent. there is a war in r oeynoso, tw drug cartels battling for tough, the zettas, a former rogue band, trying to push drugs across the border for decades, killings are constant. tiffany and david hartley learned firsthand, mexican police were not to be trusted. >> for one instance, he was coming home from the bank after cashing our rent check, and police pulled him over, followed him from the bank, pulled him
over. and had him step out and punched him in the face and stole his money. >> david, she says, saw someone get shot on the street. >> did you sense it was getting more dangerous? >> you could. yeah, you could sense it, you hear more about it. >> what did they look like, describe how you could pick out a cartel member. >> their trucks at that time had their name, the cdg, or a "z" on it for the zettas. so they had actually marked their vehicles with their name and who they were. >> david convinced his company to allow him at least to live on the american side of the border in mcallen. soon afterwards, the company told david he was being offered another transfer, back home to colorado. to his mom, that was a blessing. >> they were going to be home that next week. looking for a house. to move into, and we were
excited about them coming home. >> but there was some unfinished business, one last adventure david had long talked about but never got around to. he had heard of a church partly submerged on the falcon lake, on the mexican side, for the couple who loved their jet skis and loved adventure. >> i'm just like okay, let's go see it. >> had they asked, local law enforcement would have warned them about pirates on the lake. had they asked, captain stacey holland would have told them not to go. >> we don't recommend, you know, going into mexican on the side of the lake, it is perfectly within your rights but we just want you to be aware that the threat is out there and it is very real. and you should take it seriously. >> it was a thursday, and david
hartley called home. >> they were excited to go have one last big ride on their jet skis before they came back to colorado, and colorado doesn't have the water, that they have around there. so yeah, one last time to have a good time. >> it is a two-hour drive to falcon lake from mcallen. a trip documented by a traffic stop half way there in a town called rio grande city. >> something looked suspicious, like somebody may be stealing jet skis. >> the trailer had expired tags, troopers let them go with just a warning. but this videotape would become part of the evidence for what was about to happen. >> you come to any strange area on the united states/mexican
border, you go to sightseeing as a tourist, stop in and talk to the locals. find out what is going on in the area. if they had stopped in here and i knew they were going out on jet skis, that is a total no-no. >> up next, jet ski into the heart of a drug war. if you're living with moderate to severe crohn's disease, there are times it feels like your life revolves around your symptoms.
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>> their operational plans are very good. and the one thing about these cartels, they're ruthless and violent, but they're not stupid. >> captain stacey holland of the texas department of public safety says his proof is in these videos, captured night after night by the thermal imaging camera mounted underneath his helicopter. over the last few years, there has been more violence, and most disturbing of all to holland, more coordination, look out, even reconnaisance in smuggling. >> one thing you have to understand is how coordinated this is, and what the level of scouting and the organization is. >> these videos of chases at first made no sense. drug runners caught in the u.s. and then racing back to mexico. >> coming up to the river. >> their stolen vehicles being thrown full speed into the rio
grande. at first, law enforcement believed these were desperate attempts to escape. then they began to hear radio traffic. coordinate coordinates. >> no, that is a recovery team. >> recovery team right there, activity. >> the cartels even began organizing search and rescue teams. and suddenly, the videos made sense. drug smugglers hurling their stolen vehicles back in the rio grand e were doing it for one reason, to protect their dope. >> they don't mind losing their truck into the river, but at the end of the day if they can recover 2,000 pounds of narcotics that has an estimated
street value of 600 to 800,000, then that is what they are going to do, is protect that. inside mexico, the army has visibly taken over much of the security in border towns. local mexican police who were not corrupted by the cartels are targets of them. thousands killed. and americans have been targets, too. >> you know, i almost think that we're flying over tribal pakistan, the way you describe this area. are you surprised or are you hardened to the fact that most of america doesn't realize this is going on? >> you know, it does amaze me, and maybe it is because i'm exposed to it so much working on the southwest border, but we're in a war. we're in an engagement with an enemy that is like no other enemy that we've faced before. you have to combat these people with some of the same tactics
that they employ on you. so you know, if you asked me ten years ago if we did some of the missions and tactics that we're doing today i would have said absolutely not. >> since 2004, the state department says 200 americans have been killed in mexico, and nearly all caught up in the vicious firefights between rival drug cartels. it is no different, even along this peaceful 28-mile long lake, straddling the u.s./mexican border, two hours north of mcallen. >> we have had along the border shootings. we have had murders, home invasions. burglaries, rapes. all types of crime where -- that is associated with the violence. >> ziggy gonzales was the sheriff of zapata county, texas, and oversaw the hartley
investigation. he has retired since the incident. >> i remember when i first started as a deputy in the '70s where this was used for human trafficking. it has been used forever. >> and lately, even before the hartleys trip to falcon lake, gonzales says a new threat has come up. pirates. >> totally accurate, the definition of piracy is a lot different than what i know it to be. you know, we had one robbery on the lake totally. >> robert speedy collette owns a fishing lodge here says he has been stopped by drug cartels. but also bristles at the mention of drug cartels. he says the area is safe, as long as you know the rules. >> it happened to me. i didn't run. they boarded, they found out i
wasn't a threat and i was released. never robbed. never took a penny from me. they did not. my wallet was in my glove box, i had $1100 in my wallet, my clients were wealthy people, nothing ever happened to them. >> in the air over falcon lake, state highway says that texas was already advising them to be very careful. >> it is just a warning to let people know that this threat is out there and it is very real. and that we have had documented cases of pirating. so it is mainly for situational awareness. and you know, we don't recommend you know, going into mexico on the side of the lake. >> tiffany hartley says she had heard about troubles on falcon lake. but she and david had been there once before, and things were fine. never thought that somehow anything could happen. >> we hadn't heard anything for a while. and we were just there in
august. and enjoyed three or four hours that day on falcon lake. >> after all, it was so sunny. so calm, so perfect for one last ride. >> i told him, please don't shoot, please don't. >> in an instant, tiffany hartley claims she and david were caught in a war zone. >> are you sure that your husband got shot? >> yes, he was hit in the head. he was thrown off the jet ski and i couldn't pick him up to get him on mine. and opening the capital one purchase eraser? i need to redeem some venture miles before my demise. okay. it's easy to erase any recent travel expense i want. just pick that flight right there. mmm hmmm. give it a few taps, and...it's taken care of. this is pretty easy, and i see it works on hotels too.
david hartley had always been interesting in visiting the sunken church on falcon lake. on thursday morning, 2010, a week before he and his wife would move home to colorado, david decided they would go. >> did you know then what you must know now? that there had been several attacks on that lake that fishermen don't cross into mexico on that lake anymore? >> we did know that there were attacks. we didn't know where they were exactly. >> you had no worries whatsoever when you took the jet ski? >> no idea. >> and as tragic as this is, what i think i am hearing from you is what the hartleys did was incredibly stupid? >> incredibly. fishing guide and resort owner
speedy collet says that his business has taken a beating since the couple took the trip. he insists that fishermen and others are completely safe, as long as they follow the unwritten rules. >> this is not a jet ski lake, there are never jet skis seen here, they come up, show up on a jet ski. they don't see them, and then they try to approach them and stop them because it is a war over there. two cartels fighting each other for control. and they don't stop. they take off running. >> collet agreed to take us to old guerrero, eight miles into mexico into what he describes as a drug war to show us just how safe it really was. but before he even passed the channel marker dividing the u.s. and mexican border, speedy made us promise not to raise our camera or any suspicion.
and told us there is no doubt how jet skiers would look following this same path like drug smugglers. >> only people with jet skis are involved with dope. >> right. >> clearly nervous, collet barely slowed down as we approached the church tiffany and david hartley visited on the 30th. he turned the boat and gave us 30 seconds to take these pictures at the exact spot where tiffany hartley said they had stopped. so this is the last place they came to? the old guerrero church, they took pictures on the front step, according to tiffany hartley and then sat down on this channel. it was about five minutes into their voyage when they were approached by the boats. in an instant, the man who told us this lake was safe, was again speeding away from mexico 70 miles an hour, the same path the hartleys were on when tiffany
said the attacks began. >> there was a boat on the left, two on our right. kind of towards the land. we're kind of in the middle of the lake. and then that is when he motioned that we needed to go. >> did you see something in his eyes that said this could be serious? >> i could just tell by his body language. you know, i saw him and he was just kind of -- we got to go. like this is serious. but he stayed behind and stayed between me and the boats. >> you think protecting you? >> uh-huh. >> it was now a chase. tiffany says her jet ski was going at least 65 miles an hour. they were racing for the other side, for the u.s., for safety. >> i mean, were you scared? were you frightened at that moment? >> oh, my gosh, yeah. >> you thought, these guys are coming after us? >> uh-huh. >> three boats, closing from two
directions but not catching up. tiffany thought they could outrun them until she heard the shots. >> you heard shots? boom, boom, boom? >> you could hear them, you could feel them, you could feel them fly by you until i saw the two next to me. that is when it became really clear how close they were. >> and you saw your husband get shot and thrown from the jet ski? >> yeah. >> tiffany says she circled back as the three boats encircled her. david was face down, she says, floating when she jumped into the water in a failed attempt to save him. turning him over, she realized there was nothing to save. . >> why did you turn around? >> he is my husband, he is my love, he is my life. he is everything to me.
and once i saw him flying off, i didn't know where he was shot but i knew he -- it couldn't have been good. and there was no way i was not going to try and help him. >> can i ask you where he was shot? >> in the back of the head, but it came out in the front, the forehead. >> did you know immediately? >> yeah. he wasn't there. he was gone. you know, yelling for help and looking for anybody who could help me. but knowing there was not going to be anybody. >> but somebody was still there. she claims standing over her, a gunman in one of the boats. >> did you think, this is it? >> uh-huh. i told him, please don't shoot. please don't. >> in a moment of apparent confusion, hartley says she saw
her chance to flee. >> the gun would be on me, and then he would take it off and put it back on me. it is like he didn't know what to do with me. do i shoot or do i not? that is when they left to go meet the other boats. >> racing stepdaughttowards the passed the boat launch from which she and david had left an hour ago, she spotted a man on the lawn, yelling, asking if he spoke english. that man would help a distraught tiffany hartley place this 911 call. >> are you sure that your husband got shot? >> yes, he was hit in his head, yeah. >> was he thrown off the jet ski, into the water? >> no, he was thrown off the jet ski and i couldn't pick him up to get him on mine. >> what is your name? >> tiffany hartley.
>> when the story broke it was almost unbelievable. americans being fired on? a jet ski chase? a narrow escape and a dead husband whose body has yet to be found? >> when you describe this horrific events, you seem somewhat detached. >> the victim, at least in the eyes of some, was about to come under suspicion. hd "
>> from almost the very beginning after the attack, tiffany hartley seemed to be everywhere, telling her story. >> i think it would be difficult for anybody in my situation. and you know, i know there has been stories out there before and people questioned. but i know what i know. i know what i saw. >> not only interviews with local television stations but networks, on "the today show". >> how close did these people come to you? ask you describe them to me? >> honestly, look at the barrel was all i saw. >> the cbs morning news. >> we never had the feeling that something was going to happen that day. >> but word came out, even from mexico, that her story was doubted. zapata county sheriff, ziggy
gonzales, was the first american law enforcement official to speak with her. >> it seems something made up. like a story out of the comic books. >> it is hard. >> but tiffany hartley insists on telling her version of what happened, here with cnn's anderson cooper. >> and i know you were meeting with mexican investigators for much of today. did you get the feeling that they believed you or they didn't believe your story? >> no, i do believe that they believe my story. i mean, we had people from the state and then also federal. so everyone has come together to get my statement. and that is why it is taking so long. just so everybody has the statement. everybody can't say that they don't have it. >> and while texas authorities mounted an intensive search for any evidence that could back up her story, tiffany hartley's behavior detached to some, showing little emotion, ramped up gossip and suspicion that somehow she was not telling the
truth. >> i think that there has been a lot of suspicions based on some of her behaviors and interviews she did shortly after the murder of her husband, which raised doubt in people's mind. >> fred burton's firm provides security information for companies worldwide. including information on drug cartels operating along the u.s./mexican border. >> anybody that is an outsider that goes into that area is viewed as either working for another cartel, or a possible informant for a government agency. >> this is the boat ramp right here, this is the area where she came in to seek help. >> the sheriff now trying to investigate a crime in another country, was fending off calls from reporters asking if the hartleys themselves were drug runners. or if david hartley was working with the cartel.
speculation began to swirl that tiffany hartley killed her husband for the insurance money, or even that she was seeing another man. >> people still have a hard time believing you. does that hurt you? >> some days. other days they don't have room to judge. i mean, they don't know me. they don't know my husband. they were not there that day. so really, they have no room to judge me. >> with television and newspaper attention still at viral levels, authorities in texas were trapped. they could dispatch all the boats and helicopters they wanted, but law enforcement in mexico was still in charge. and what happened next in mexico showed just how difficult getting any answers would be. >> one mexican detective did try to find out what happened to
david hartley. but his head was severed from his body. and his decapitated head was delivered to the mexican army here in a border town. >> his name? rolando villegas. his brothers who lived near the church in old mexico. old guerrero, it is unclear if he went looking for him, but only days later after he identified the brothers by name, the detective was dead. a clear warning for any law enforcement not to follow in his foot steps. >> one detective did try. >> we understand that he did try, yes. and -- >> he was executed. >> i asked also if he was perhaps executed because of involvement or trafficking and because of the case. and i was told by the source that they thought he was killed because of his involvement in trying to assist in the investigation of the case.
>> a case gone cold. but new evidence is about to emerge from falcon lake. um... where's mrs. davis? she took an early spring break thanks to her double miles from the capital one venture card. now what was mrs. davis teaching? spelling. that's not a subject, right? i mean, spell check. that's a program. algebra. okay. persons a and b are flying to the bahamas. how fast will they get there? don't you need distance, rate and... no, all it takes is double miles. [ all ] whoa. yeah. [ male announcer ] get away fast with unlimited double miles from the capital one venture card. you're the world's best teacher. this is so unexpected. what's in your wallet?
sigifr . i'm don lemon, here are your headlines this hour, president obama spent the evening pressing his case for military action against syria, the president and vice president joe biden attending a dinner for republican senators who are either undecided or actively opposed to the strike against syria, the president will talk to cnn's wolf blitzer on monday, as well. tune in at 6:00 eastern in the
"the situation room" for that interview. and happening sunday at the oyster festival, police say that 13 children were injured, two seriously. the ride owner says the swing was just inspected on friday. and in tennis, serena williams won her fifth u.s. open title, it is serena's 17th grand slam title. the men's final is tomorrow between number one novak djokovic and raphael nadal. i'm don lemon, keeping you informed, cnn, the most trusted name in news.
>> on falcon lake, there has been no sign of david hartley's body. his jet ski, anything that could prove his wife's story, that her husband was shot to death by mexican drug smugglers. the beheading of the one mexican detective willing to at least try to solve the crime has dealt the hartleys another blow. >> you feel right now there is people in mexico, maybe even police in mexico, who wouldn't say what happened to david? >> uh-huh. >> because they're afraid? >> yes. i said if you have threats against your loved ones, if you don't know if they're going to come home, i mean, that is a fear that i can't imagine. i don't want to imagine. that is why it is like this has to stop. >> without any clear answers from mexico the hartleys have turned to intelligence sources north of the border who can try
to explain why the couple was targeted. former intelligence official fred burton has been studying a turf war in mexico between two drug cartels, a former band of military guards called the zetas and the more traditional coast cartel. >> what most people don't realize when you're looking at the border is that there are certain portions that are not controlled by the mexican government. in the area of falcon lake, it was directly controlled by the zetas. and this was a very strong smuggling corridor for them. >> so you believe this was mistaken identity? >> clearly, all evidence indicates this was a case of mistaken identity based on the tactical intelligence i have seen surrounding the case. >> the most likely scenario is david and tiffany hartley had
wandered into a drug war and were mistaken as the enemy. >> zapata county sheriff sigifredo gonzales believes the hartleys had not only wandered into a war but had arrived on the mexican side of falcon lake at the exact moment a cartel was about to move a large amount of marijuana. up on a bluff, the spotters, his sources told him, caught the first glimpse of a possible glitch in the drug deal. >> that area is an area that is notorious for crossing or storing of thousands of pounds of marijuana. we've known that a for a long time. that information is such that i have related it to federal officials, local, i mean state officials, we're all aware that this area is used as an area that they hide tons of marijuana here. >> so based on your sources and your intelligence, when they began to encroach on what would
be a drug deal, they were looked upon as potentially -- >> as threats, as threats. and this is why they were given the instructions to go ahead and shoot at them. >> the sheriff now tells cnn that eyewitnesss have come forward to him, witnesses he says who claim to know what happened that day. they describe a military-style attack. three boats, several shooters and hundreds of rounds being fired at two jet skiers. >> the shot that killed david hartley was an unlucky shot. >> the sheriff now believes the killers were instructed to kill tiffany hartley, too. what happens next, he says, is a scenario he has put together from three witnesses on the mexican side of the lake. one source in mexico and at least one witness who told cnn that he saw a high speed chase on the u.s. side. a boat chasing a girl on a jet ski. it is clear that one of sheriff
gonzales' sources was involved in the attack itself. >> so they were given the instruction to go ahead and shoot and kill her also. but she was able to say. and they also say she was able to get away from us. and we kept shooting her to hit her, but she kept zigzagging across, being chased by a boat across to the u.s. and of course, there is a witness that corroborates that also. >> the eyewitness standing here at the time is too scared to show his face on camera. but he tells cnn that he not only witnessed tiffany hartley on her jet ski, but the boat chasing her right there as they came into the inland, into american water's chasing tiffany hartley almost up until the time she came to shore. >> it is 20 people to be involved, to be a conspiracy, which is going to be paying people off. >> sheriff gonzales says she believes tiffany's story and his
sources and witnesses confirm it. >> you don't believe the hartleys were involved in drugs? >> no. >> you don't believe there is an insurance scam going on? >> where is the body? >> you don't believe that tiffany hartley herself may have executed her husband? >> i don't think so. >> and now, even more evidence tiffany hartley is telling the truth. a surveillance photo taken that very afternoon, an hour after the attack. >> you notice there on the front of the boat, you see the bundles of marijuana there. >> it shows a small boat and a group of men, one with a green shirt. one shirt black, fitting the description given by tiffany hartley. and what gonzales says is a bale of marijuana in the bow. it is information mexican authorities have had since the very first day. >> sheriff, i mean, i got to ask you. is that possible that mexico is going to find, catch, and adjudicate the killers in what
is a lawless part of mexico? >> i really cannot answer that. but i can tell you this. that based on their past record, i think they have a -- somewhat of a zero solvency rate and a zero conviction rate. >> and there is one more piece of evidence. a small blood spot on the life jacket tiffany hartley wore the day she says her husband was shot. the blood is from her husband. >> sheriff gonzales says a dna test confirms it. but even the dna match remains just one more piece of an unsolved puzzle. there is still no body, no jet ski. is tiffany hartley even telling the truth? or is there another secret yet to be told?
>> this is the international boundary. >> in his office in texas, county sheriff sigifredo gonzales says he knows for a fact that david hartley will never be returned to the united states for burial. >> do you know how? >> yes, four different sources with different agencies have come forward and told us how they disposed of the body. >> those sources say the body of david hartley was placed in a barrel and burned. in colorado where she now lives, tiffany hartley refuses to believe her husband's body will never be returned. >> it has passed my mind, but i'm not willing to accept it in my heart. i know my god. and he is bigger than anyone and anything. and he -- he wants justice just as much. >> the cold reality, however, seen seens very different.
on her website, bringdavidhome.com, there are plenty of people who still believe she is a suspect. she continues making statements perceived as odd. and what she told me that god was involved in this traffic stop the day david was killed. to help her. >> tiffany, you just said that from that moment i knew god's hand was in our lives that day. >> people probably think that well, how? >> i'm thinking that right now. >> because i believe he had us being pulled over to prove, because he knew that i would be judged. that i would be questioned. that day for what a happene. >> even though dna proved david's blood was on tiffany's life jacket, questions persist, where was the camera that they used to take pictures of old guerrero? why wasn't there far more blood
evidence? >> the jet ski -- >> the jet ski was also destroyed. it is my understanding that the jet ski was taken apart. the parts that would float were burned and buried afterwards, and the parts that would not, were just floating in the lake. >> sheriff sigifredo gonzales says he believes hartley's story but he may never be able to prove it. david hartley's mother can barely control her emotions. >> what happened to david and tiffany was an act of terror, plain and simple. it was a senseless violence, but it was an act of terror. and that is not going to end at the border. it is over here already. >> and for tiffany herself, it is even more troubling. >> do you think your husband is a victim of -- in a way, politics? >> i would say a victim of terrorism. of politics.
and -- the way of life of mexico. and the politics, i think there is too many connections between u.s. and mexico, too much money going back and forth. >> connections, you mean in a criminal way? >> in a money way. i think it is all the money. >> in the air over border country, captain stacey holland says the financial stakes are so high for the drug cartels that money takes precedence over everything else. >> so what the state is faced with and the nation, really, is an aggressive narcotics smuggling ring or cartels, their interest lies in their inventory, and that is what they're going to do, is anything to protect their inventory. >> and that includes the cartel,
inflicting its own investigation and its own brand of justice. security expert fred burton has followed the case closely. >> it is my understanding that the individuals that were involved with the killing of mr. hartley were in essence picked up and killed by the zetas themselves. >> the killers were killed? >> correct, the killers were killed by the organization because remember, this is bad for business. >> if the killers are dead, tiffany hartley may never be able to prove what happened. she knows how many people still don't believe her story. that she and david were just sightseeing, that she tried to save him. that she outran boats with gunmen firing at her. in interviews she remains unemotion unemotional. that, too, in the eyes of many has made tiffany hartley
suspect. >> people don't see me at night when i go to bed. they don't see me in the mornings when i'm waking up. >> what would they see? >> every night i miss my husband. and i -- i miss laying next to him and kissing him good night. >> and for tiffany hartley, those are the kinds of memories that will last far beyond the questions and speculation that have followed her since that fateful day on falcon lake. >> i want my why to be answered. and i know i'm never going to know why until the day i can ask god.
>> here, in the midwest, several young girls went missing. some were found murdered. others were never found at all. laura dpies, 20, in appleton, wisconsin, reyna risen, wendy felton, 16, from indiana, michelle dewey, all of these cases went unsolved. officials believed only one man knew what happened. >> we knew he was responsible for several deaths. >> and to get