Hartley widow says Zeta arrest brings vindicationBY LYNN BREZOSKY : OCTOBER 9, 2012 : Updated: October 10, 2012 1:04am
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Photo By DELCIA LOPEZ
MCALLEN,Tx.,Oct.07,2010- Tiffany Hartley,29 wife of David,30, who was shot while jet sking on Falcon Lake during a studio interview n McAllen, Texas, Oct.7,2010. SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS NEWS/Delcia Lopez. (EXPRESS NEWS PRINT AND ONLINE ONE TIME USE ONLY) (NO SALES ALL MAGS OUT;ONLINE OUT;AP OUT;GETTY OUT;AFP OUT; DELCIA LOPEZ PHOTOGRAPHY©
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BROWNSVILLE — For Tiffany Hartley, the Mexican government’s arrest of a high-ranking cartel operative brought long-awaited vindication.
It was the first time Mexican officials acknowledged that her husband, David, was killed by cartel operatives.
“They’ve never acknowledged that in two years, and for them to finally acknowledge that David was murdered in Mexico by the cartels, by the Zetas cartel, for me is huge,” she said Tuesday.
Hartley, who now lives in Colorado, said the announcement should satisfy her critics: “The people who thought I had something to do with it can finally go, ‘But Mexico’s admitting that they had something to do with it.’”
Mexican officials reported Monday that military forces captured Salvador Alfonso Martínez Escobedo, 31, a high-ranking Zetas gang member accused of having a leading role in a series of horrific crimes.
The charges against him include mass murders and the slaying of both David Hartley in 2010 and the police commander investigating Hartley’s death, whose severed head later was delivered to Mexican military in a suitcase.
David Hartley’s body never was recovered.
By the time of his arrest Saturday in Nuevo Laredo, Martínez, also known as “the Squirrel,” had a $1 million bounty on his head.
Tiffany Hartley’s story that gunmen killed her husband Sept. 30, 2010, as the two vacationed on Falcon Lake drew international attention to the drug war raging on the Texas border.
Her tale also drew skepticism, as pundits and criminal experts searched her account for discrepancies and analyzed her body language for signs of dishonesty.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said early that “speculation is unwarranted” toward Tiffany Hartley.
Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he was frustrated by the way the Mexican government treated her.
“She wasn’t interviewed but rather interrogated,” he said.
David Hartley had been working for an oil field services company in Reynosa, Mexico, and the couple were preparing to return to their native Colorado that fall. They spent one of their last days along the Texas border sightseeing. One of the sights they wanted to see was a partly submerged church on the Mexican side of the lake.
Some months earlier, officials received reports of armed “pirates” on the lake, robbing U.S. fishermen at gunpoint.
Sheriff Gonzalez said Tuesday that Tiffany’s story was, from the beginning, consistent with those reports.
He said his own investigation into the death turned up five names of suspected low-ranking cartel members. While the names did not include Martinez’s, he said Martinez was likely arrested as the ring leader.
“I’m sure that the Mexican military is not going to lie about this thing,” Gonzalez said. “I’m sure he was involved somehow, though not the actual killing of Hartley himself.”
Mexican officials naming Hartley as a murder victim is “very important,” he said.
Tiffany Hartley said she still wants more information to make sure the government has arrested the man responsible for her husband’s death.
“But, you know, either way, he’s a cartel member, either way he’s part of the Zetas cartel,” she said. “He has hurt a lot of people and killed a lot of people.”