The lead Mexican investigator in the Falcon Lake case, Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, has been killed, his severed head delivered Tuesday in a suitcase to the Mexican military, officials told CNN.
“His head was delivered to the army garrison this morning in a suitcase after he failed to report back home last night,” Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. said.
Eva Rodriguez, Flores’ secretary, said the news of his death came as a surprise. “We saw [Rolando] last night,” she said. “After he came back [from the search for Hartley] we were all together here in the office. That was the last time any of us saw him.”
She said she was not aware that Flores–whom she described as “very dedicated to his job”–had received any threats from narcotraffickers.
On Sunday, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, and Parks and Wildlife officials were back on the U.S. side of the lake searching for new evidence in the case, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzales.
Authorities from both nations have been conducting separate searches and holding regular meetings, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Virginia Staab said. But because the disappearance allegedly occurred on the Mexican side of the border, the United States cannot prosecute or make arrests in the case, the sheriff said.
Falcon Lake is a reservoir on the Rio Grande. The U.S.-Mexican border runs through the middle of the lake, with Zapata and Starr counties on the U.S. side.