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Conspiracy theories linger in Falcon Lake Mexican 'pirates' shooting

An eyewitness corroborated part of Tiffany Hartley's story about a Mexican 'pirate' attack that killed her husband, David Hartley, on Falcon Lake last week. But not all doubts have been erased.

By Staff writer / October 7, 2010

The family of David Hartley visit at Falcon Lake Wednesday. Hartley's wife, Tiffany, says he was shot and killed by Mexican pirates as the couple was jet skiing on the Mexican side of the lake last week.

Eric Gay/AP


As Tiffany Hartley, surrounded by Texas game wardens, laid a wreath of yellow roses on the surface of Falcon Lake near where she says her husband, David, was shot by Mexican pirates, questions were swirling about the truth of her tale.

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In part fueled by the improbability of the phrase "Mexican pirates" and given past crimes where innocent-seeming spouses eventually faced murder charges, doubts about Ms. Hartley's story have bubbled up on cable TV shows, Twitter, and even along the 60-mile-long border lake where the shooting allegedly happened.

"There are a whole lot of doubts. Very few believe it. [The story] is just too wild with too many loopholes," says John Williams, a resident of Zapata, Texas, and a fishing guide on Falcon Lake since 1964, in a phone interview. "I don’t know what happened. They could have taken him off into desert, and he'll never be seen again, but I don't think anybody will ever know unless they come up and tell you."

The lake, long known as a crossing point for illicit cross-border activity, has lately become a hideout for cartels fleeing a Mexican government crackdown. The Gulf Coast Cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, are fighting for control of the lake. This year, cartel-linked pirates have reportedly robbed or attempted to rob US bass fishermen on five different occasions, though Mr. Hartley is the first reported death.

Ms. Hartley has said her husband was shot by men in a boat after she and her husband drove their jet skis to the Mexican side of the lake. The men in the boat then chased her back to the US side, she said.

Texas state legislator Aaron Pena, who accompanied Ms. Hartley to the rose-laying ceremony on the lake Wednesday, believes the pirates were likely junior cartel members looking to steal the couple's jet skis, and they carried off the watercraft and Mr. Hartley's body after the shooting.

But that scenario seems too convenient for some commentators.