Monday, June 24, 2024

Missing tourists’ bodies identified in Ensenada; surfers pay tribute and demand safety

Three bodies found south of the city of Ensenada last week have been identified as those of two Australian brothers and another man from the United States who went missing during a surfing and camping trip to Baja California in late April.

The Baja California Attorney General’s Office (FGE) said in a statement that three bodies found in a 15-meter-deep well on a clifftop in the area known as La Bocana were confirmed to be those of Callum and Jake Robinson, two brothers from the Western Australian city of Perth, and Jack Carter Rhoad of San Diego.

A surfer places flowers on a surfboard in memory of the three surfers kidnapped and killed in Baja California in late April
On Sunday, the surfing community of Rosarito and Ensenada organized a memorial and protest demanding better security on Baja California beaches. (Omar Martínez/Cuartoscuro)

The FGE said that the families of the victims identified the bodies and that genetic tests weren’t required.

A fourth male body in an advanced state of decomposition was found in the same well. That body has not been identified and was apparently dumped in the well sometime before the three foreign tourists went missing.

Baja California Attorney General María Elena Andrade Ramírez told a press conference on Sunday that the bodies identified as those of the three foreign tourists all had gunshot wounds to the head.

Authorities believe that the alleged killer or killers drove past the men’s campsite, saw their tents and pickup truck and wanted to steal the vehicle for its tires and other parts.

“Surely they resisted,” Andrade said, adding that it is believed that the men were subsequently shot and killed.

She noted that a range of evidence was found at the campsite, including a single bullet casing, blood stains, drag marks, tent poles and plastic bottles.

“This makes us think they were attacked and since then we doubted we’d find them alive,” Andrade said.

The attorney general said that the aggressors disposed of the bodies in a well in a hard-to-get-to location some six to eight kilometers from the campsite.

A burned white pickup truck
The white pickup truck similar of the three travelers was found burned at a ranch near Santo Tómas, Baja California. (X)

“This is what happened,” Andrade said, adding that the men weren’t targeted because they were tourists but because they had a vehicle the aggressors wanted to steal.

“[The killers] probably didn’t know the origin of these people,” she said, although the pickup truck — which was found burnt out on a ranch in nearby Santo Tomás — had license plates from the state of California.

Andrade said that the parents of the victims understood that their sons, all aged in their early 30s, had gone into an “inhospitable” area where there was no way of calling for help.

Three suspects arrested on Sunday

Authorities have arrested two men and one woman in connection with the disappearance and alleged murder of Callum and Jake Robinson and Jack Carter Rhoad.

According to media reports, they are Jesús Gerardo García Cota, his brother Cristian Alejandro García Cota and Ari Gisel, who has been identified as Jesús García’s girlfriend. The woman was detained in possession of one of the deceased men’s cell phones.

Andrade said Sunday that Jesús García Cota, known as “El Kekas” (a colloquial term for quesadillas), was detained on kidnapping charges. The attorney general said that he has a criminal record.

She noted that the other two suspects are in preventive detention on drug possession charges and said they could be directly or indirectly related to the alleged murder of the three foreign tourists.

“El Kekas” had previously been convicted of extortion and vehicle theft in the municipality of Ensenada.

Andrade said that the three people detained do not belong to a criminal group that “controls” territory in Ensenada.

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar called on “the state’s judicial power” to apply the law with “complete rigor against those responsible for these terrible events.”

“Baja California is and will continue being a state with a safe tourism [experience] for the thousands of people who visit us from the rest of the country and the world,” the governor added in a post on X.

Baja California was Mexico’s third most violent state last year in terms of total homicides, but killings of foreign tourists are rare.

The victims

Jake Robinson, a doctor, traveled to the United States in April to visit his brother Callum, who lived in San Diego and played professional lacrosse in the U.S.

They attended the Coachella music festival in California before traveling to Baja California with Rhoad, who lived in San Diego and worked as a director at the company ITCO Solutions, according to his LinkedIn page.

“I love people. I’m lucky to have found a ‘job’ that fuels my passion for problem-solving by connecting the right people with the right companies,” Rhoad wrote on his LinkedIn page.

Jake Robinson had worked in regional hospitals around Australia and was to take up a new position in the city of Geelong on his return, according to his parents.

“Callum and Jake are beautiful human beings. We love them so much and this breaks our heart,” the men’s parents said in a statement.

“… Our only comfort right now is that they were together doing something they passionately love,” said Martin and Debra Robinson, who traveled to Baja California from Perth to identify their sons and meet with authorities.

Debra Robinson had posted in the Talk Baja Facebook group to seek assistance locating Callum and Jake last week.

“They have not contacted us since Saturday 27th April. They are traveling with another friend, an American citizen. They were due to book into an Airbnb in Rosarito after their camping weekend, but they did not show up,” she wrote last Wednesday.

Mexico expresses its condolences 

In a statement “on behalf of Mexico,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry (SRE) expressed its condolences “for the tragic deaths of Australian citizens Jake and Callum Robinson and U.S. citizen Jack Carter Rhoad, who were vacationing in Baja California.”

“The Foreign Ministry sympathizes with the families of the victims of this tragic event and deeply regrets the outcome. Since their disappearance was reported, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been in constant, direct contact with the Australian Ambassador to Mexico, Rachel Elizabeth Moseley, and her team to support their efforts,” the SRE said.

“On the instructions of Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Mexico’s Ambassador to Australia, Ernesto Céspedes Oropeza, traveled to Baja California to provide consular assistance to the Australian embassy staff and to express Mexico’s solidarity with the families of the youths,” the ministry added.

Anti-violence march held in Ensenada on Sunday

The Baja California Surfing Association organized a “march against insecurity” at which surfers and others condemned the crime against the tourists from Australia and the United States and demanded security on the state’s beaches.

Baja California surfers organized a paddle out on Sunday in memory of the three foreign surfers who were killed near Ensenada
Baja California surfers organized a paddle out on Sunday in memory of the victims. (Omar Martínez/Cuartoscuro)

Surfers also participated in a “paddle out” tribute to the slain foreigners, who had enjoyed the waves off the Baja peninsula before their violent deaths.

“We’re really, really sorry this happened. As local surfers from Baja California we’re shaken to the core,” Gino Passalacqua, vice president of the Baja Surf Club, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

With reports from Animal Político, EFE, Reforma, Radio Fórmula and The Sydney Morning Herald

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