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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The love of his life was lured into a deadly trap. Then so was he

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat-republished from WaPo written by Michael Miller

he story of the American O'Neil McGean's murder in Mazatlán, one year ago, was unusual and mysterious in itself.  But there lies a backstory that begins in 2010 with another murder in the U.S. In the end two men, once partners, then close friends, were both dead, both lives leading to a similar murderous fate.

I wrote a post for BB about the Mazatlán murder.  Prompted by emails from his friends in Mexico and I eventually connected with his brother Donnie.   I must say, never have I seen such support from friends, neighbors and family for their lost loved one.  This man was highly respected and loved.  Donnie sent me this WaPo post.  It is for Donnie I republish this article to highlight the recent anniversary of O'Neil's murder.  Donnie and the McGean family's search for answers go on, although it was my advice that perhaps it was time to accept that they most likely will never receive all the answers they search for from the Mexican Government.  Just as the families in 93-95% of all other Murders in Mexico. -Chivis-

Betts left McGean right
Written by Michael Miller 

To the hundreds of students who lined up outside the funeral home that April evening in 2010, Brian Betts had been a beloved Washington middle school principal. A second father. An inspiration.

“R.I.P. Mr. Betts,” said their shirts and hoodies.

“Mr. Betts, We Love You,” read their signs.

But to O’Neil McGean, who stood in the Pierce Funeral Home parking lot in Manassas, Va., gripping a friend’s hand and fighting back tears, Brian had been so much more.

He had been the love of O’Neil’s life.

They had met at a stoplight, O’Neil’s personality so boisterous it took him only a few seconds to make a lasting impression. Soon they bought a house together in Shaw, fixing it up in the evenings. They were inseparable for almost a decade. And even after their breakup, after O’Neil moved to Mexico and Brian moved to Maryland, they remained good friends.

Then came the gunshots late one night inside Brian’s bedroom in Silver Spring, and the phone ringing 2,000 miles away in Mazatlán.

A week later, O’Neil stood in front of his ex’s casket wondering what had gone wrong.

“Why did this happen, Brian?” O’Neil asked aloud.

The answer came two weeks later when police arrested four men, one of whom had arranged to meet Brian via a telephone chat line only to rob him, shoot him and leave him to die.
“Why did this happen, Brian?” O’Neil asked aloud.

The answer came two weeks later when police arrested four men, one of whom had arranged to meet Brian via a telephone chat line only to rob him, shoot him and leave him to die.
A 2010 memorial outside Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson for beloved principal Brian Betts. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

Betts was found dead at his home in Silver Spring. He’d been targeted via a telephone chat line . (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post
The crime chastened O’Neil. He was already careful about living in Mexico. Now he grew wary of online dating.

But by Oct. 25, 2016, that caution had waned. After agreeing to meet someone through a dating app, O’Neil disappeared — as did $16,000 from his bank accounts.

The question this time was less why than how.

How could O’Neil fall prey to the same trap that had claimed Brian six years prior?

How could the 53-year-old not see it coming?

‘Hope he is ok’

The first messages weren’t alarming.

“Hola amigo, you there,” Jorge Guillen Gonzalez wrote on Facebook messenger on Oct. 26, 2016.

“Si, yo estoy aqui,” replied Donnie McGean, O’Neil’s oldest brother. “All is good, and you?”

“Not as good [as] I want.”

They had met six months earlier when Donnie and his wife visited O’Neil in Mazatlán, a city known as the Pearl of the Pacific.
O’Neil had moved there in 2006 after visiting a few times. The same charisma that had made him the center of attention as a kid in Chevy Chase — leading his little brother Chris and their friends through Rock Creek Park, refereeing fights after school at Blessed Sacrament, captaining dodgeball games — made him popular in the gay-friendly resort town.

It was in Mazatlan that O’Neil met Jorge, a handsome young Mexican with dark hair, green eyes and a tattoo across his tightly muscled chest reading “Warrior of God.” They had dated for a short time before opening a cafe together in 2014.

Now Jorge said he was worried.

O’Neil had gone on a date the night before with someone he’d met on a gay dating app, Jorge said, and O’Neil wasn’t home yet, nor was he answering his phone. His two cherished dogs — Brandy and Guinness, named after O’Neil’s favorite drinks — hadn’t been fed.

Drug violence in the surrounding state of Sinaloa had crept into Mazatlan. So when Jorge said he was receiving strange Spanglish texts from O’Neil’s phone, Donnie told him to call the police.

Jorge Guillen Gonzalez, left, and O'Neil in 2006, when O’Neil moved to Mexico. (Family photo) (Family photo)
“[I] really miss O’Neil. He is my life. He knows how much I love him. Hope he is ok, wherever he is,” Jorge wrote in broken English.

“My heart is broken,” he said later. “I just wanna die.”

“Hang in there. I will be there tomorrow,” Donnie wrote as he prepared to board a flight from his home in Maui to Mazatlan. “Our family is very grateful to have you as a friend of O’Neil. Without you we would be nowhere right now.”

‘You don’t give the orders’

Twenty hours later, Donnie, an energetic 62-year-old who founded a trio of natural food groceries, stepped off a plane and headed to meet Jorge at the Hotel Punta Pacifico, a remote resort north of the city. It was here, Jorge said, that O’Neil had gone to meet his date the night he disappeared.

But hotel employees denied seeing O’Neil, and drone footage of the surrounding countryside showed no trace of him or his car.

The sun dipped over the ocean as Jorge drove them south to Mazatlan. They were eating seafood at a restaurant on the malecón when the Mexican’s phone suddenly began to buzz.

The messages were from O’Neil’s phone — but not from O’Neil.

“Pay great attention because I will not say it again,” the kidnappers said in Spanish. “If it occurs to you to do something rash, you will not hear from me or your little sponsor again.”

The kidnappers had already withdrawn about $16,000 from O’Neil’s bank accounts. Now they demanded $26,000 more, but gave confusing directions, first instructing Jorge to pay in the morning, then ordering him to deposit a fifth of the money immediately — without providing a bank account.

“I won’t do anything until I see a photo that O’Neil is ok,” Jorge wrote back.

“First hand,” came the cryptic, chilling answer. “Want the other? You don’t give the orders here.”

As the texts became more threatening, Jorge grew visibly distraught, sobbing and retching, recalled Donnie, who was busy dialing FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration officials — contacts of a relative who’d retired from the DEA — to ask them to try to trace his brother’s phone.

The next morning, someone spotted O’Neil’s car, parked downtown and filled with trash and beer bottles. As Donnie and Jorge watched state police dust the car for fingerprints, an officer pulled the American aside to say he had a bad feeling about Jorge.

Donnie shrugged it off, as he did the other things people said about Jorge: that O’Neil had recently fired him from the cafe; that he’d been banned from O’Neil’s house for throwing wild parties while the American was away.

Jorge went everywhere with Donnie, translating for him by day and sleeping in the same house at night. He even suggested suspects to the police, organizing a stakeout at a property where he said O’Neil might be held, Donnie recalled.

O’Neil had been a popular figure in Mazatlán, donating money to local causes and hosting events at his cafe, so his disappearance was major local news. On Oct. 31, Donnie’s fourth day in town, he and Jorge went to meet the mayor. Carlos Felton told Donnie he’d spoken that morning to the governor, who had made it clear he wanted the case solved quickly.

“A lot of these guys were very afraid that this would affect their tourism, would affect the cruise ships,” Donnie later recalled.

The same day, Donnie met with the prosecutor handling O’Neil’s disappearance.

“What took you so long to come in here?” Agripino Flores Sanchez asked. “We told Jorge a family member has to sign off on the investigation.”

The next day, when Donnie returned to talk to Flores, the prosecutor barred Jorge from entering the room. He then showed Donnie a diagram of communications between the suspected kidnappers. Jorge’s name appeared, Donnie recalled.

Donnie again dismissed the idea. Jorge must have been trying to reach the kidnappers to negotiate O’Neil’s release, he thought.

The next day Mazatlan was packed with people celebrating the Day of the Dead. To take his mind off his brother’s disappearance, Donnie walked among the thousands of partygoers with their faces painted like skulls before ducking into a restaurant to call a kidnapping expert.

“If you’re continuing to be hopeful, don’t,” the expert said after Donnie told him the kidnappers had gone quiet. “I’ll tell you right now that your brother is dead.”

‘You cannot trust anybody’

Donnie’s phone rang just hours after he’d left Mazatlan.

Police had found O’Neil’s body, his youngest brother, Chris, told him, and they had arrested Jorge.

Six years after Brian’s murder, O’Neil had fallen prey to a similar trap — one allegedly orchestrated by his best friend.

O’Neil had been lured not to the Punta Pacifico but to another hotel, where he had been beaten so badly that his lungs were punctured, investigators told Donnie. His brother’s body was then wrapped in a hotel curtain, stuffed inside a large bag, ferried across town in a taxi and buried in a yard under freshly poured concrete.

The FBI agent had warned him not to look at O’Neil’s face, so Donnie identified his little brother by the Irish family crest tattooed on his shoulder.

Mexican law does not allow Mexican media to fully identify suspects until they have been convicted. But multiple people close to the situation, including investigators and an attorney for Jorge, confirmed his arrest and those of two others: Luis David Soto and Carlos Ramon Anguiano. A fourth suspect, Joel Carrillo Anguiano — a relative of Carlos — has also been charged but remains at large.

State and local authorities did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Jorge’s attorney, Hector Soto, said his client had been made into a “scapegoat” by officials eager to close a high-profile and politically sensitive case.

Jorge had sounded the alarm over O’Neil’s disappearance and pressured police to investigate, Soto argued. A confession by Carlos Anguiano implicating Jorge was unreliable, he said.

“Carlos says he was tortured into giving that statement,” Soto said.

That accusation cuts deep in a country that has struggled to modernize its outdated, underfunded and, at times, corrupt criminal justice system. Despite a decade-long effort to bolster the rule of law by improving policing and introducing American-style oral court proceedings, more than 93 percent of homicides go unsolved, according to the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexican think tank.

On the rare occasion that a homicide case is closed, it is often tainted by accusations of torture, as in the case of two Australian surfers killed in Sinaloa a year before O’Neil.

In a jailhouse letter sent to The Post by his brother, Jorge claimed he is innocent.

“I’m locked up because of the whims of prosecutors and the disabilities of judges,” he wrote. “I’m locked up because the state government wants to get along with the American community.”
Guillen Gonzalez on Valentine's Day in 2014. He and O’Neil had opened a cafe together in Mazatlan. Now he is charged in connection with O’Neil’s killing. (Family photo)
Donnie McGean believes Jorge is guilty. Rather than as signs of innocence, he sees Jorge’s retching and crying as evidence that he knew the robbery had gone too far and that O’Neil was dead. But even he isn’t certain.

“In Mexico, you cannot trust anybody,” Donnie said, “including the police.”

A year after his brother’s death, Donnie and his relatives worry that the case will fall apart. The governor who had prioritized O’Neil’s case left office last year amid accusations of corruption.

“I feel that the case is being put on the back burner,” Donnie wrote to Sinaloa’s new governor, Quirino Ordaz Coppel, in May. “A kidnapper, robber and murderer of an American living in Mexico is still walking the streets.”

Donnie never received a response. Later he learned Ordaz, who did not respond to requests for comment, owns the Pacific Palace hotel, where O’Neil was killed.

A month after O’Neil’s body was found, expats drank tequila and sang “Danny Boy” at a memorial in Mazatlán. On the same day in Washington, mourners packed Blessed Sacrament for a memorial just as emotional as the one held for Brian.

Earlier this year, when Chris and Donnie went through their brother’s belongings, they found dozens of children’s books Brian had given O’Neil, each with a love note written inside.

And in his dressing room in Mazatlán, framed behind glass, they found a collage of photographs of O’Neil and Brian — both of them now gone.


  1. You can't do good in mexico without someone taxing YOU and if you don't pay, you die. Sad but true

    1. Problem with that statement 7:14 is that this man paid his 'taxes'(the $13,000)AND also paid with his life,a double whammy.He had 30 years or so taken from him all for $13,000.The money will be long spent by the kidnappers within a month and this man left this world well before his time.Do the math,his life was worth about $400 per year.What a waste of a life for so little!For a lot of Mexicans their lives are even worth less.Yes life is certainly cheap in Mexico!

    2. Been to Mexico several times recently (won’t go back) Twice was stopped by the municipal police because as tall gringos we stood out and they always rolled up with reinforcements for fear we would kick their asses if only 2 harassed us. The first time they said we were in possession of some weed (which of course we were not) and instead they said of arrest & jail we could pay them $200 USD and they would forget we had weed (again we did not). But experience told us keep quiet and pay. The 2nd time a muni saw my friend whip out a wad of US bills after paying for a feast after eating & drinking and he shadowed us (they can never be undercover spies they are so obvious) and as he approached us (rather cornered us) he was radioing for immediate assistance. I knew what time it was and told my friends to keep quiet and we were going to have to pay him and his buddies off. Without question we were told to empty out pockets and take our shoes off. Too many witnesses so they wouldnt try and shoot or kidnap us but it was obvious they wanted our possessions. They grabbed the money and phones and told us “nothing happened” to forget we were stopped and to leave the city immediately. In fact the one fat slob told us in not so many choice words we were not welcome anywhere in Mexico and to watch our backs as they had eyes in the hood to watch us and make sure we leave with the usual OR ELSE. We got the hell out of there and we were followed by some 2 bit dope addicts aching no doubt to kill us for laughs and a hit of meth from the cops. Mexico once a glorious place, now a mass country wide graveyard.

    3. 12:10 it happened to my friends & I too. But they actually handcuffed us and brought us to the jail and demanded we pay them cash to be released. It wasn’t much, a few hundred dollars but they threatened us with violence and even had some dirballs come in to make the threat more viable. They were cartel gang members and openly carried assault weapons into the station to intimidate us. It worked and it gave me cause to see they would murder without a second thought or care. Emotionless zombies strung out on dope. The corruption and violence is so out in the open no one cares as long as they pad their pockets. Killing to them is like me or you ordering a hamburger at McDonald’s. They don’t care who they murder even it is their own flesh and blood. Sad.

    4. 12:10 where the fuck do u b going taumalipas or wat

  2. What can you say, at least what?
    They didn't get AIDS, or Hep-C or betray each other, but you just don't go to meet strangers in mexico or on the US for private rendezvous, because these are the consequences.
    Now these 2 cases that look like coincidences, look like may not get cleared.
    Have the rooms in Pacific Palace been sprayed with that Luminol?
    To at least find the murder room, also where the calls were made, and some lie detectors would be useful, because the american method of investigation takes a lotta money mexico does not have, but some hacks know how to beat the machine too, maybe waterboarding QUIRINO COPPEL TO CLEAR HIS NAME REAL QUICK.
    BOYCOTT the Pacific Plaza and every other Coppel business.

    1. Where the fuck are you from?? Idaho or some bumfuck place and all you do is watch CSI?? Mexico = impunity & corruption. They don’t investigate they just call in Inspector Clouseau to close the case after arresting anyone they want. Be they innocent or not LOL they don’t care. They murder and massacre their own families and friends for a couple of dollars and crack or heroin. And they are ususally the police and investigators.

    2. Inspector Closeau? LMAO!!

    3. 12:15 Priista quirino coppel's hotel is named as the killing place, and while no witnesses or suspects are available, it would be a good starting point, not every crime gets solved because of "confessions", elementary, madam doctor,
      the US ambassador could help family investigators get in there to at least get their arses kissed for a whiles.

  3. RIP

    “In Mexico, you cannot trust anybody,”

    1. Just too many twisted individuals. Eh? The usa is not far behind let me tell ya.

  4. Hey Chivis !
    I just read this on WaPo , great idea to post it.
    That poor family. ✌

  5. So sadly I am not surprised that some of the trash we are stuck with at BB are bigoted homophobics. Grow up or shut up.

    1. Thank you Chivis.

      RIP and Peace to the family

    2. Not only homophobic but very racist too,they probably don't even know any " gringos "

    3. It's very sad. I do t understand why sexual orientation needs to be even stated in a story where that is completely irrelavent. Just like stating their race. Instead of leading some stories with " A Deaf, black gay man was arrested for shoplifting" a simple " A man was arrested for shoplifting". I agree Chivis, this is no place for bigotry, bullying, or personal agenda.

  6. Readers: I have been MIA unexpectedly and am very behind on all things BB including emails and communications. I am attempting to catch up....

    1. Dont rush yourself but do take care hope you back to normal in no time Chivis.

  7. I don't care about his sexuality and try to do the "if you don't have anything nice to say..." thing but it sure seems like it took several poor decisions and a refusal to learn from other's mistakes before we got to this tragedy. Be aware and beware people.

  8. Chivis, bigotry some times hides behind a shield of religion. Often those who hate don't know even one gay personally. Times are changing. and for the good, as gays feel more at ease in living life openly gay. It will become a nonissue. everyone should be judged by their character. deeds and how they treat others.

    1. Same answer goes to racism

    2. Let there be light,
      nothing is sacred when there is trouble.
      Don't be so touchy after the baby has drowned.
      Porque por eso estamos como estamos

  9. 11:38 I agree strongly with your last sentence!

  10. reader wrote "Chivis So disappointing how you censor what’s not appealing nor appropriate with your beliefs. "

    Yup...that is what we do. we will not post bigotry. Stop with your comments, they are not appropriate. The commentor above was correct saying many hide behind religion. this is not the forum for you. and not the topic. This could and has happened to heterosexuals as well. Being gay is not the subject. This man, actually both men, we respected, caring loved men. Basta!

  11. We all have that 1 family member or neighbor that’s gay. Bashing them is super easy. Defending them always seems 2 be the hardest thing 2 do. Most would rather not do it. Religion is cool and all. But don’t take your shit 2 seriously. Because on that day of judgment I’m sure I won’t be able 2 save you anymore than you can save me. We all have our sins. Some of my biggest ones have always been women and carnal desires. Along with all the bad things I like doing 2 bad people. - Sol Prendido

  12. What none of the news reports reported was that Jorge and Oneil were at one time lovers...

  13. My partner and I lived in Mexico for ten years. We found the majority of the Mexican people to be kind, loving, and non judgemental towards our lifestyle. God bless the people of Mexico!!

    1. 6:11 the mexican partner was not so nice,
      or he got to be framed and/or blamed unfairly,
      but he is in prison now,
      Quirino Coppel don't give a damn, he gets around now with the state coffers and state police getting what is HIS...

  14. Chivis. Got no problem with them being homosexuals . As long as I don't think about what they do to much in detail . Also always hated it when flirted with by a man . That being said I have fought a person beating on a gay boy just because he was "queer" was the word he used . Just cant stand a bully . Now this wasn't a hate crime because it seems to be initiated by a spurned lover . Would have been the first place I looked . Don't seem to be drug related but I have a feeling the killers were drug related . Anyway it could happen to a straight person taking up with people that they meet online . Still showing yourself . Still like ya . You got a big heart and not the evil bitch I thought you may have been .

    1. You are correct nothing glaring about drugs, but still a cautionary tale. The hoax was played on a relative of a BB reporter...long story and thank God our interaction resulted in a good ending. The social media romance and connections are not going anywhere, but there are ways to be safe. The reason I posted this was on behalf of Donnie, Oneil's brother. I had a soft spot for him, are brothers were both brutally murdered. BTW as you kjnow I can be a bitch or "bitchy" but never evil :)

    2. Economic crimes usually involve somebody with money, and somebody else robbing them, killing, torturing, disappearing just go with the turf, it is like that ABC ARSON, the money was gkne, governor Bours was only trying to disappear the records when the fire got out of hand, he sure got the arsonist killed, to save his own ass.


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