A retired couple from the United States were shot dead early Saturday morning in the beach town of Bahía de los Ángeles in the Baja California municipality of Ensenada.
Ray Edgar Ball, 72, and Jo Anne Butler, 69, of Prescott, Arizona, were killed in what authorities believe was an attempted robbery at their waterfront home south of town.
There are indications that Ball was awoken by strange noises and discovered two men trying to steal his 22-foot boat, which the couple used on their frequent fishing trips.
“This was an attempted robbery,” said local official Octavio López. “The man went to defend his property and was then shot.”
A neighbor was woken by gunshots before hearing what sounded like scraping metal. Looking outside, he saw two men pulling the boat toward the water with a vehicle but the latter buried itself in the sand.
The thieves abandoned the vehicle, fired more gunshots and fled the scene.
The neighbor realized the boat belonged to Ball and went to investigate. He and another neighbor found Ball and Butler lying dead on the floor.
State officials pronounced the couple dead at 2:46am. Butler had sustained two gunshots and Ball nine. Their dog was also killed.
The incident has shocked the community of about 1,000 people, of whom at least 100 are U.S. citizens. “We have no memory of having a shooting here,” said Tom Mitchell, a San Diego resident who has had a home in Bahía de los Angeles for four decades. “This has taken it to a level that no one here has experienced.”
Said López: “This is the first time we’ve had something like this happen.”
Friends and neighbors of the couple said Ball had probably gone to investigate the noise he heard with a bat in hand, but was shot when he opened the back door.
A friend said he was not surprised that Ball would have tried to protect his place and his belongings.
Mitchell described the incident as “so out of character for our community. These guys didn’t hesitate to kill. They basically murdered both of them.”
The couple had been visiting Bahía do los Ángeles for many years, having been captivated by the area. Ball, described as a gifted craftsman, first visited in the 1980s and Ball, a teacher turned artist, arrived for the first time in 2003.
Their murder is the second such incident to target U.S. citizens this year in that part of Ensenada. On January 8, Charles Lewis Crabtree, 75, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
A 28-year-old suspect is in custody.