The wife of a US tourist who survived a gruesome kidnapping by a notorious Mexican drug cartel has revealed she didn’t even know he had left the US.
Eric James Williams and his friend Latavia “Tay” McGee were rescued from a drug cartel “stash house” on Tuesday, four days after they were abducted by gunmen in Matamoros, Mexico, while on their way to an abdominoplasty clinic.
Their two friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were killed in the horror attack.
Mr Williams’ wife, Michelle, has now spoken out to reveal she didn’t even know he was crossing the border into Mexico – and a border town largely ruled by the Gulf drug cartel.
“I didn’t know he was traveling to Mexico,” she told WBTV. “I just knew he was going somewhere to help two friends.”
Michelle said she last heard from her husband on Friday morning when he texted her.
She said she responded to his message “immediately” but received no response.
Now she believes that he and his three friends were then ambushed and kidnapped by the suspected gang members.
‘He didn’t respond. He didn’t respond to our son either, so I assume they were ambushed then,” she said.
“I highly doubt they thought this could have happened to them.”
Now she said he and Ms. McGee are recovering in a Texas hospital after suffering non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his legs.
He was shot three times in the legs during the attack and underwent surgery while Ms. McGee appeared to be unharmed.
Michelle told CNN she and their 11-year-old son were able to speak to him on the phone from the hospital where he was emotional about Woodard and Brown’s deaths.
To him, the two men were like his own “brothers,” she said.
Mexican officials are now performing autopsies on Woodard and Brown’s bodies before they are repatriated to the US.
The horror abduction began on Friday when the group of four American friends traveled from South Carolina to Matamoros to have Ms. McGee undergo a tummy tuck.
As the group crossed the border in their white minivan, they seemed to get lost and struggled to find the clinic.
Not long after, they were ambushed and shot at by a group of armed gunmen.
Disturbing video footage showed the four victims then being bundled into the back of a pick-up truck by the attackers.
The video showed one person sitting upright and moving, while the other three were dragged limply into the vehicle. One of the dragged victims did show signs of life by lifting the head.
Mr. Williams’ scuba diving license from North Carolina was found at the kidnapping scene.
Officials believe the attack was the work of a drug cartel that mistook the victims for Haitian drug smugglers.
The incident sparked a massive international effort to track down the medical tourists, with the FBI offering a $50,000 reward for their return and for the arrest of those responsible.
On Tuesday, the victims were finally located at a “store house” along a rural area east of Matamoros called Ejido Longoreño en route to the local beach known as Playa Baghdad.
A suspect – identified as 24-year-old Jose “N” – has been arrested in connection with the fatal kidnapping.
The governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal, said at a press conference on Tuesday evening that the suspect’s job was to make sure the victims did not escape.
During the four-day ordeal, officials believe the victims were moved several times to evade authorities.
Several US officials pointed to the cartel’s involvement in the incident, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the Biden administration remains committed to “disrupting transnational criminal organizations, including Mexican drug cartels and people smugglers.” ”.
“We remain committed to using the full weight of our efforts and resources to counter them,” she said at a press briefing Tuesday.
“At this time, our immediate concerns are the safe return of our citizens, the health and well-being of those who survived this attack, and the support to be provided to the families of those in need.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was sorry the deadly incident happened on Mexican soil.
“We continue to work every day for peace and are very sorry that this has happened in our country,” he said on Tuesday.
“We extend our condolences to the friends and family of the victims and the American people. And we will continue to work for peace.”
The border town of Matamoros, located in the state of Tamaulipas, is largely controlled by the Gulf drug cartel, with violence and migrant smuggling.
The United States Department of State advises Americans not to travel to Tamaulipas due to the risk of crime and kidnapping. The region is on the “Level 4: No Travel” list.