Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, November 16, 2018

Missing NC Teacher: Reported Dead and Killed by Sinaloa Cartel

Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Charlotte Observer

                      Patrick Braxton-Andrew, the 34-year-old North Carolinian schoolteacher

Patrick Braxton-Andrew, the 34-year-old Davidson schoolteacher and tutor who was presumed missing for weeks in a remote part of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, is believed to have been murdered by a drug trafficker in that region, according to the state’s top politician.

For 18 confusing, nail-biting days, Patrick Braxton-Andrew’s disappearance — from a tiny, remote north-Mexican town at the bottom of a breathtaking ravine larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon — remained a mystery.

On Thursday, a tragic answer emerged: According to a Facebook post written by his family, Mexican authorities determined that the 34-year-old Davidson man — an algebra and Spanish teacher who thrived on backpacking through Latin America — was killed Oct. 28 by “a criminal organization” in the state of Chihuahua.

The post also indicates, however, that Braxton-Andrew’s body has not yet been recovered, and that police have not yet made any arrests. And, so, large questions remain.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Patrick died on October 28th,” the family’s Facebook post reads. “The search continues to recover his body so we can bring him back home.”

                                              Thanks to BB reader for the Video !
Chihuahua governor Javier Corral said in a post on his official Facebook page Thursday night that state authorities are currently hunting for the suspected killer , "El Chueco" , José Noriel Portilo Gil,  In English, the Spanish word “chueco” translates to “crooked.”

According to Mexican news magazine Proceso, José Noriel Portilo Gil  “is a young man who leads a group that belongs to the Sinaloa Cartel and controls the Urique region.”

“I can say that this was a brutal and cowardly murder of a completely innocent person; of a straightforward man whose only misfortune was to cross paths with this thug,” Governor Corral wrote in his post, originally written in Spanish.  Gov. Corral wrote on Facebook that Patrick Braxton-Andrew was killed in Urique the same day that he went missing.

But Corral, the Chihuahua state governor, said they’re determined to bring the killer to justice.

“Nothing will stop us until we have captured him,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “It could take us a short time or a long time, but we will capture him. ... The attack of innocent people who have nothing to do with criminal organizations or the disputes between them should be made a priority so that they never remain unpunished.”

During a break from his job as a part-time teacher at the private Woodlawn School in Mooresville, Braxton-Andrew — who was fluent in Spanish and had a great deal of experience traveling in Latin America, often solo — left North Carolina on Oct. 24 on a flight to Chihuahua via Houston. He took a train the next morning into Copper Canyon National Park, then on Oct. 26 (a Friday), he caught a bus that drove him down into the canyon to the tiny town of Urique.

He spent most of the weekend sightseeing, but vanished after leaving his hotel at around 4 p.m.; according to his family, he likely was wearing flip-flops or sandals and left behind belongings (including his camera) that he would have taken if he were planning to stray very far from the hotel. His family didn’t realize he was missing until more than 48 hours later, when he didn’t show up to meet his brother Kerry in Mexico City on Tuesday evening, Oct. 30.

The town of Urique — nestled at the bottom of the breathtaking Copper Canyon, which is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon — is attractive to adventure-seeking tourists because of its spectacular beauty. But it is also known for significant marijuana and poppy cultivation, and there has been frequent drug trafficking and related violence in and around the region.

Still, his mother said Wednesday that one of the guidebooks Patrick Braxton-Andrew used to plan his trip emphasized the area’s beauty; she said it noted that most violence was contained to the cartels, not targeted at tourists.

An American couple who said they’d met Patrick in Urique described the town as “very peaceful” and that “they said they never felt in danger,” Jean Braxton said. “She said that of course they were noticed because they were foreigners, but she said they never had a sense of anything evil.”

Added Patrick’s brother Kerry: “If you read blogs of people that have traveled there, they basically echo that.”

In a Facebook post announcing Patrick’s death on Thursday afternoon, the family said: “Patrick died doing what he loved — traveling and meeting people.”

They also indicated that his body has not been recovered, leaving unanswered questions.

The family has been silent since posting the statement Thursday, and attempts by the Observer to reach law enforcement officials in Chihuahua have been unsuccessful.

Going solo:

On Wednesday afternoon, the day before news of his death, The Observer spoke with Braxton-Andrew’s mother, Jean Braxton, his younger brother Kerry, and his sister-in-law Kathleen by phone from Mexico City — where the family set up a base of operations a couple of weeks ago. (His father, Gary Andrew, was in another meeting and unable to join the call. Andrew was Davidson College’s head men’s cross country and track and field coach for 29 years; he retired in 2014.)

During the interview, they said Patrick Braxton-Andrew had been planning this trip to Mexico for months, a break from his jobs as a part-time teacher at the private Woodlawn School in Mooresville and as a freelance tutor in Spanish and other subjects.

The main attraction was a feast of Mexican food and culture during the country’s Day of the Dead celebration, which would run from Oct. 31-Nov. 2. But a break in Woodlawn’s schedule gave him a few extra days to travel before that, and Braxton-Andrew fixed his sights on taking a ride on “El Chepe” — a tourist-friendly rail line in northwest Mexico that passes through the eye-popping Copper Canyon National Park and alongside miles of landscapes that appear to be ripped from a postcard.
                                               Copper Canyon's Infamous Train: El Chepe

Originally, his family says, about eight people had planned to join Braxton-Andrew for Day of the Dead, and he threw out a loose invitation for anyone who wanted to tag along on “El Chepe.” But ultimately, no one was able to attend the holiday festivities except younger brother Kerry, and no one could join Patrick for the train ride.

This was fine with him. Patrick had always been perfectly happy on his own in Latin America. In fact, as a foreigner in Mexico, he was as prepared as any to take a trip like this alone, his family says.

He’d cut his teeth as a traveler at a young age, in family trips to Colorado — scrambling up red-rock knolls at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and along vertigo-inducing trails at Estes Park in the northern part of the state. Before or after the family hikes, Patrick and Kerry would wander the campground, striking up easy friendships with other kids.

During his senior year at North Mecklenburg High School, Patrick showed exceptional writing skills in English class, but was thought to be in danger of failing out of Spanish, his family says. He hated it. Didn’t have an ear for it. Couldn’t understand why he was being forced to learn it.

That changed, though, when — while working toward an English degree at Davidson College — his grandmother decided to celebrate her 90th birthday by taking the family on a bus tour through Costa Rica. It was Patrick’s first time outside the U.S., and the first time he saw that knowing Spanish had benefits beyond a classroom.

Almost as soon as the trip was over, he was plotting a return. In the first couple of years after graduating from Davidson, he banked as much money as he could from his job at a logistics company in Cornelius. Then in his mid-20s, he and a friend bought one-way plane tickets to Mexico City and slowly started backpacking their way south toward Costa Rica.

At some point, he and his friend parted ways. Braxton-Andrew wound up living with a family in Guatemala and became obsessed with the language. In all, he spent 13 months in Latin America before a stomach bug forced him home.   By that time, he was fluent in Spanish.

And he vacuumed up opportunities to use it as a tutor and a teacher. He also quit his logistics job in 2011 and signed on with Davidson College’s Peru-focused study-abroad program, making several trips to South America as its assistant resident director.

While others stuck close to Americans, he often wandered off on his own :

“He loves to just strike up conversations with people in Spanish when he’s traveling in Latin America,” his brother Kerry told the Observer on Wednesday. “He is constantly talking with the locals. And so even when he’s traveling alone, it’s not like he feels alone at any time.”

The timeline:

After learning of his disappearance and arriving in Mexico City, his family worked and worried around the clock, staying in close contact with government officials while also leading a grassroots hunt for clues, information, any speck of data that might return Patrick to civilization.

Through conversations with employees at places he stayed or visited, and with people who crossed his path, this is the family’s understanding of Braxton-Andrew’s final days:

He left North Carolina on Oct. 24 on a flight to Chihuahua via Houston, then climbed aboard the “El Chepe” train the next morning. He got off at a stop in El Divisadero, snapping photos of Copper Canyon with his beloved Sony camera, and spent the night nearby. On Oct. 26, a Friday, he bought a ticket for the treacherous 3 1/2-hour bus ride down into the ravine that wound up in Urique.

His weekend plans included two hikes he’d plucked from the sparse Urique entry in his mother’s Lonely Planet guidebook. On Saturday, Oct. 27, he spent part of the day hiking up the Rio Urique to Guadalupe Coronado village and back (a 9.3-mile round trip) with some travelers he met on the bus ride, then had dinner with them. On Sunday, Oct. 28, he did the round trip downriver to Guapalayna (7.4 miles).

That afternoon, he lounged in an Internet cafe, answering texts and sending work-related emails, signing off at about 3:30 p.m. and returning to his hotel.

According to hotel management, Braxton-Andrew went back out again at around 4 p.m. They said he was carrying his phone, perhaps a book and some small coins, and wore sandals or flip-flops. His brother Kerry says he left behind all of the shoes he would have used for hiking, and his camera, which he typically took whenever he thought there was a chance he might see something Instagram-worthy.

He didn’t take the bus back up the windy road to the top of the canyon on Monday morning as he’d planned, didn’t catch the train to Los Mochis that he was supposed to be on that evening, and missed his flight to Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon.

Given that he’d had spotty reception throughout the trip and that the early part of the week was supposed to have been full of traveling, his family didn’t start worrying until he didn’t show up to meet Kerry in Mexico City on Tuesday evening, Oct. 30.

NC Senator Thom Tillis:

Susan and I are deeply saddened to learn of Patrick Braxton-Andrew’s passing, and our hearts go out to his loving family, friends, and the communities of Davidson and Mooresville, where he touched countless lives . Patrick’s family deserves justice, and I will continue to work with the @StateDept and federal officials as Mexican law enforcement continues their investigation.

Was it safe?

As his family chased leads and appealed to N.C. lawmakers for help and met with Chihuahua officials, including the governor and the attorney general, Mexican authorities scoured the surrounding area. And even as days turned into weeks, his family remained confident that he would return alive.

“It’s hard not to have high hopes right now, just because of the resources we have and because of the contacts we’ve made,” his sister-in-law Kathleen Braxton-Andrew told the Observer on Wednesday, before learning of his death. “Not to say that we’re sitting around happy all the time either. I mean, we’re hopeful, certainly, but there’s a lot of other emotions, too — frustration, anger, sadness. Sadness that he’s not here.”

As for the question of how safe it was to be traveling in the part of Mexico where he disappeared and was apparently killed, his mother said Wednesday that the guidebook he’d used emphasized the area’s beauty and noted that most violence was contained to the cartels, not targeted at tourists.

Mexican media outlets are reporting a wide variety of stories about Braxton-Andrew’s death, none of which seem consistent. Attempts to reach law enforcement officials in Chihuahua were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.

The Braxton-Andrew family was not available to speak with the Observer Thursday, leaving the Facebook post’s simple message: “Patrick died doing what he loved — traveling and meeting people.”

Charlotte Observer staff writer Cristina Bolling and Lorena Rios Trevino contributed to this report.


  1. The teacher had goals in life, and taken away by a ruthless lowlife cartel.

  2. When Mexico needs this type of traveler to bring in honest money, these horrific accounts of murder will just further deepen the fear of traveling to Mexico and people will choose to go elsewhere. Leaving yourself vulnerable by traveling alone in any part of the world known for violence is not a prudent choice.

  3. build that wall.


  4. Panochos narcos de Sinaloa o de todos lugares tambien nada mas se enojan y sacan pistolas y dan muerte a cualquier persona. Pero culeros nomas porke ellos viven una miserable vida coma la pelicula El Infierno les vale madre matar a otros. Chingen todos a sus reputas madres!

  5. Another one bites the dust ....

    White folks need to stay out of any Latin American country until further notice.

    Entiendes Méndez ?

    1. Yuckkkk,another racist Mexican appears,how surprising

    2. I'm Mexican and I hate racist pendejos like 2:12

  6. Blaming it on CDS as payback for mentioning the brides to the top government positions during Chapo’s trial.

    1. Na cds has been doing this

    2. It's sad a person lost ther life but thers no proof this guy was killed by cds or any cartel for all we know the Mexican police got at him it wouldn't be the first time I could of been hiking and feel to his death ther isn't even a body we could guess all we want the government in Mexico is blaming cds cause probably ther enemy's in that area payed them to but who knows maybe cds killed him

  7. CDS at it again killing innocent unarmed men but when they go against ncdj or cjng they end up dead

  8. Very very sad,a gentle innocent young dude who enriched and helped chidren,no doubt he loved Mexico and its beautiful landscapes and vistas.Portilo Gil clan are well known lets hope they go down hard or at least some of them

  9. Dang, it took me less time to read War And Peace. White privilege?

    1. Who are these people with these comments ?

  10. Thug = racist white dude word

  11. The hell with being in that area right now. Any outsider is probably looked at as DEA or US agent. Your looking for trouble just hiking or sightseeing in that part of mexico

    1. I would agree.Thats what get innocent tourists killed.They don't kill you because you're doing something wrong.They do it because they think your a undercover agent.The Chapo arrest made all narcow skitzos.Kate Del Castillo and Sean Penn we're working for the C.I.A

  12. People will still visit Mexico, with no regard for their own lives.

  13. plenty of canyons, valleys and hiking spots in canada and usa.
    but to us survivors remember
    "el que busca encuentra"

    1. Nothing tops chihuahua in hiking in North America too bad it’s in the middle of Cártel land

  14. I don't get it.How do they know he's dead without a body or even the culprit?

  15. Damn what if this guy never died
    Then again the officials tell u all is under control

  16. He's fucked they're gonna hunt him down like a dog in the street. What happened to not killing innocent people especially foreigners.

  17. Another tragic story of violence in Mexico.

  18. Two Americans killed in the last few weeks. Both young. Watch your tourism go into the toilet. We love Mexico, live there part of the year, but this is a different feel now.

    1. I agree. Only those with their heads in the sand can’t see and feel the difference. Hard core drug addicts in the streets of small little towns ? Unthinkable in the past.......maybe a little mota, times they have a changed.
      This is one of the areas in Mexico or the entire Western Hemisphere for that matter that I would love to visit. Wish I had done it 30 years ago.........I have friends that have gone even in the last ten years and they ran into trouble and did not feel safe......heartbreaking.

  19. My heart breaks for this family. As the brother of a kidnap murder victim in Mazatlan, I know what this family is going through. Mexico is a dangerous place for visitors and residents and guide books should put an emphasis on this.

    1. Hi Donnie, i thought of you and your family.
      This part of Mexico was typically the safest. I saw an interview with the parents and it is heartbreaking. Like your brother he was loved by an extraordinary number of people. Paz, Chivis

      PS has the trail happened yet?

    2. Sorry for your loss brother,it is indeed very sad.This young dude sounded gentle and loved life,so sad

  20. This snitches are only brave with innocent people

  21. La gente del H will avenge his death. Con la gente inocente nunca se metio la raya cuando radicaban por Urique y en Guazapares tenemos refuerzos______💯

  22. 13 months to be fluent in Spanish? I have been learning Spanish for years and I'm still not fluent.

  23. Will a revolution of good versus evil, ever take place in Mexico? Or is the fate of crime and drugs. Something that Mexicans have now accepted?

  24. "but but you guys sinaloas dont kill innocent people their corridos say it all the time" cds cheerleaders and sonorense/ durangenses people

  25. Who cares what Cartel did this. Damn anybody that ever takes part in something like this. There is a special place in hell for all of them. GOD never forgets. Rest In Peace Mr. Braxton. Thank you Yaqui for your hard work and dedication to BB. To la Reina Chivis. Un grande abrazo y saludos desde Los Angeles. El Nemesis-

  26. Some of the comments on here are rediculous...theres more to the story.. this is unnaceptable and my blessings go to the family or loved ones of this man.

  27. Mex govt blaming Cds cuz of Chapos trial. So obvious.

  28. Why don't Mexican victims get such a lengthy, glowing post-mortem? White people already suck up all the oxygen in the room.

    1. I say this in all seriousness, trying to help. Just ask the first question and leave the second snarky comment off. You will make people think and help wffect good change that way.

  29. Body was reportedly recovered. Hopefully it’ll come out what really transpired.


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