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Authorities Say Criminal Organization Killed Davidson Man In Mexico

Patrick Braxton-Andrew took this selfie from a lookout above Copper Cannon, near Urique, Mexico. It was on his camera, which his family was given by authorities investigating his disappearance.
Braxton-Andrew family
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One of the last known photos of Patrick Braxton-Andrew was this selfie on a lookout above Copper Cannon, near Urique, Mexico. It was on his camera, which his family was given by authorities investigating his disappearance.

Updated Friday, Nov. 16, 2018

Authorities in Mexico say a 34-year-old North Carolina man missing in a remote area for more than two weeks died on Oct. 28 "at the hands of a criminal organization."

Patrick Braxton-Andrew was an adventurer, community volunteer and Spanish teacher at Woodlawn School near Davidson, north of Charlotte. His family has said he disappeared after going out for a walk from his hotel in the village of Urique.

Friends posted the news on Facebook Thursday, saying the information came from officials in Chihuahua State.  Later, the Chihuahua state government confirmed the news in an announcement on its website, blaming the crime on a local drug trafficker. 

It wasn't immediately clear how or where he died and his body is still missing. The post said only police are still searching.

Urique is a former mining village at the base of a canyon that is part of the Copper Canyon National Park. The area has seen violent conflicts over illegal logging, which locals believe are fronts for money laundering by Mexican drug cartels.

"Patrick died doing what he loved—traveling and meeting people. Join us in celebrating his life as he would want us to do. We will always remember Patrick and his joy for life. We love you PBA," the message said.

Braxton-Andrew's parents, Gary Andrew and Jean Braxton, and younger brother, Kerry Braxton-Andrew, had been in Mexico pushing authorities to keep up the search. They also had done numerous interviews in recent days with national and local media in the U.S. and Mexico. 

Woodlawn School canceled classes for Friday and said counselors will be available on campus. In a statement posted on Facebook, the school said: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved teacher, community member, and friend. … We are grateful for all that Patrick has brought to our Woodlawn family and are sending love to the Braxton-Andrews.”

WORLD TRAVELER

In an interview last week, Braxton-Andrew's family described him as a world traveler, fluent in Spanish, who would rather spend a few days off in Latin America than stay at home.

His latest adventure was a trip to Chihuahua, in north central Mexico, where he wanted to ride the el Chepe train, which travels through Copper Canyon National Park.

His brother, Kerry, said Patrick tried to get him or friends to go along, but ended up traveling solo, which was not unusual for him.  He visited the park, and one of last photos found on his camera was a selfie taken at the canyon rim.

After a trip on the train, he wound up in Urique, where he planned to spend a few days.

The plan was to fly to Mexico City to meet Kerry for Day of the Dead celebrations. But when he didn’t show up, his family became concerned.

“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 last week. "That was a little out of character for him."

Kerry confirmed that his brother's flight had landed without him, and then contacted his parents, who happened to be in Mexico on a separate trip.

They got help from an interpreter and began tracking Patrick's steps for the previous few days.

“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.”

OUT FOR A WALK

Other foreigners in Urique reported seeing him on Saturday, Oct. 27. His family says he took a walk Sunday morning, Oct. 28, to a village south of Urique. And he was texting friends and family up until Sunday afternoon around 3:30. Kerry said the hotel manager told them that's about when 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. More than a hundred police joined the search over the following week, checking surrounding villages and canyons, using an airplane, drones and dogs. 

The Braxton-Andrew family had been working with Mexican authorities and the U.S. Embassy. And they enlisted help from members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation.  

RELATED LINKS

The family is sharing information through a Facebook page - Missing/Desaparecido - Patrick Braxton-Andrew.