The family of a North Carolina Spanish teacher missing in Mexico for 10 days is offering new details about his disappearance two weeks ago and appealing for more help.
Patrick Braxton-Andrew's family describes him as a world traveler, fluent in Spanish, who would rather spend a few days off in Latin America than stay at home.
Two weeks ago, the 34-year-old teacher at the private Woodlawn School, near Davidson, flew to Chihuahua, in north central Mexico. He went there for his latest adventure, said his younger brother Kerry Braxton-Andrew.
“In previous travels through Latin America, he had heard from other backpackers that the el Chepe train, which is the train that travels through the Copper Canyon National Park, is just a really amazing trip. It kind of gets you away from the super tourist spots and it's just very beautiful,” Kerry Braxton-Andrew said in an interview.
Patrick tried to get his brother or friends to join him, but ended up traveling solo — as he often does, Kerry said. After a trip on the train, he wound up in Urique, a former mining village near the park. In recent years, the area has seen violent conflicts over illegal logging, which locals believe might be a front for Mexican drug cartels.
The plan was to spend a few days around Urique, then fly to Mexico City to meet Kerry for Day of the Dead celebrations. He never arrived.
“I had been sending him texts throughout the day just kind of asking him to keep me posted on timing and other things, and he had hadn't responded to them," Kerry said. "That was a little out of character for him."
Patrick didn't meet Kerry at the hotel as planned. Kerry checked and saw that his brother's flight had landed. So he contacted his parents, Jean Braxton and Gary Andrew of Davidson, who happened to be in Mexico on a separate trip to visit ruins in Tulum. With the help of an interpreter, and his itinerary, they tracked Patrick's steps for the previous few days.
“He hadn't boarded his flight and then we found out that he hadn't made it to the hotel he was supposed to stay the night before,” Kerry said. “And that's how we kind of backtracked to Urique. And then we got a hold of the hotel owner there, They're the ones who informed us that, yes, he had been staying there and he had gone missing.”
Other foreigners in Urique reported seeing him on Saturday. His family now has his camera, left at the hotel, which shows he took a walk Sunday morning to a village south of Urique. Friends and family members also got text messages from him up until Sunday afternoon around 3:30. The hotel manager told them that's about the time he went out for a walk.
“What he left with was basically his phone, he may or may not have had a book, and either flip flops or sandals," Kerry said. "So he certainly wasn't going for any sort of extensive walk at that point in the afternoon."
When he didn't come back, the hotel manager organized local residents to search Monday and Tuesday. Local police joined the search and on Thursday, the Chihuahua state police got involved. More than a hundred police have been searching Urique and surrounding villages and canyons, using an airplane, drones and dogs.
And that's where the trail goes cold, said Kerry.
“We don't have any new information on where he is,” Kerry said.
“And I mean, honestly, our goal now is just … We know he's missing. We don't really care how he went missing. Our goal is just to bring Patrick home and bring him home safely.”
Kerry and his parents remain in Mexico to monitor the search. They're in touch with Mexican authorities and the U.S. Embassy.
A wide network of friends and colleagues is watching from afar through emails and social media, including a Facebook page. After calls and emails from Patrick's friends, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis tweeted that his staff is working with the State Department and Mexican officials.
It's the topic of conversation in Davidson, at Woodlawn School and at Davidson College, where Patrick's fellow alumni are watching and worrying.
Nobody is mentioning the possibility of foul play, though that has to be a concern. His dad Gary Andrew said he's just trying to stay focused on the search.
“We're optimistic and we're in here, if necessary, for the long run," Andrew said. "We're not going to go away and we're going to keep pushing everybody to do whatever they can."
Patrick's mother, Jean Braxton, is keeping the faith.
“We're not giving up,” she said. “And I just feel like with all the resources we have working to find him that it's going to come to a good end and we're going to we're going to find Patrick. And then he's going to have an awful big worldwide family to thank for his for his safe return.”
The family is sharing information through that Facebook page - Missing/Desaparecido - Patrick Braxton-Andrew. There's a phone number and email there for anyone who has information or can help.
Friends are planning a vigil this Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Davidson Village Green in downtown Davidson. See more on Facebook.