In the past few weeks, the internet has become captivated by the story of a mother who sought out her daughter’s killers in what is being called the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. The story of Miriam Rodriguez is going viral, shocking everyone with the bravery of a 56-year-old other who had to take up the mantle of getting justice for her daughter, who was kidnapped and killed by the Los Zeta drug cartel. Over a period of five years, she assisted in the search and capture of nearly all living members of the group who originally kidnapped her daughter. Despite her harrowing tale of perseverance and justice, the end of the story has people up in arms about the way her case and her daughter’s case was handled by investigating agencies.
For over ten years, Mexico has been torn by violence between multiple criminal organizations who have laid individual claim to drug-smuggling routes into the United States. These routes are lucrative and considered an asset to drug traffickers who want to move illegal drugs into the United States. In-depth coverage on these efforts to quash drug-trafficking has never been consistent and can drastically change depending on what mainstream media outlet is reporting, but one thing is clear: The conflict has caused millions of ripple effects in families of both Mexicans and Americans who have lost loved ones to the violence and cannot get justice.
Since 2006, more than 79,000 have vanished south of the border, the highest amount since the end of the Cold War. Miriam Rodriguez was one of thousands of parents who could not get answers in the cases of their missing children who had gone missing or befallen violence tangential to the Los Zeta cartel. Her 20-year-old daughter, Karen, was kidnapped and killed in 2012. She was carjacked by members of the Los Zeta cartel, who drove the car off with Karen still inside. The objective was to post ransom for Karen’s safe return, but despite her family’s compliance with their demands, Karen was still murdered by the cartel. It would be two long years before her remains would finally be discovered on an empty ranch in 2014. When Miriam was unable to get justice for Karen through the typical channels of law enforcement, she became a woman on a mission to find Karen’s killers.
Like many mothers of missing children, Miriam Rodriguez was driven to activism on behalf of missing children in a familiar mission to mitigate the suffering of other families through education and advocacy. She formed a non-governmental group of 600 families working in tandem to find their missing loved ones. As her daughter’s case continued to go unsolved, Miriam took up the mantle of finding the killers herself. Her methodology mirrored that of a private investigator. Based on conversations with the kidnappers, she was able to seize on a few key pieces of information to actually track one of the kidnappers down on Facebook. She followed lead after lead, armed with a handgun, a fake ID, and disguises that she used to extract information from relevant subjects in the case.
In the sharing of Miriam’s story, people have compared her to a vigilante, not unlike Liam Neeson’s character from the movie, Taken, in which a former CIA operative goes on a rogue mission to rescue his daughter from the clutches of a sex-trafficking ring. Details of Miriam’s story have been muddled in this comparison, with many people believing that she hunted these men down and killed them herself. The truth is that Miriam continued to work with law enforcement on her efforts to bring these men to justice—just not at their behest. In an incident reported by the New York Times when Miriam’s story broke, she had tracked one of Karen’s kidnappers to a vendor’s booth, selling sunglasses. Despite the fact that the man recognized her and gave chase, Miriam was able to tackle him and hold him at gunpoint for almost an hour until authorities arrived to take him into custody. Miriam is credited with taking down at least ten members of the Los Zeta drug cartel during her search. The critical arrest of a man called “Sama,” who was tracked down and arrested with the help of Miriam, led to the implication of several criminal conspirators and perpetrators in Karen’s abduction and murder. An officer who reportedly worked with Miriam in arresting these men remarked on the quality of work this 56-year-old mother did during her independent investigation, “She had gone to every single level of government and they had slammed the door in her face…To help her hunt down the people who took her daughter—it was the greatest privilege of my career.”
Miriam’s story has been shared for her bravery and diligence in bringing her daughter’s killers to justice, but ultimately, the cartel was able to retaliate in a devastating manner. Miriam Rodriguez was murdered in her front yard on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2017. She was shot 12 times as she exited her car in her driveway. Her husband found her face down with her hand in her purse, indicative that she had been reaching for the concealed handgun in her purse. Her murder has forced other civilians with knowledge of the case into secrecy or hiding, convinced that the same people who hunted Miriam down would also come for them. Thus the cycle of intimidation, violence, and war with law enforcement begins anew in Mexico.
It has been over ten years since seven year-old Kyron Hormon was last seen. He disappeared on June 4, 2010, and was last seen at his school’s science fair. Kyron’s disappearance has been the subject of journalistic investigations, talk shows, and the largest criminal investigation in the history of the state of Oregon. His face is one of the most recognizable on the growing list of missing children who have still not been found.
At the time of his disappearance, Kryon’s parents, Kaine and Desiree Horman had been divorced for almost ten years. They had shared equal custody until Desiree was diagnosed with kidney failure that prompted medical intervention from the state, giving Kaine full custody. Despite having full custody, Kaine still heavily included Desiree in Kryon’s life.
In 2007, Kaine married Kryon’s stepmother, Terri Moulton. Moulton was reportedly the last person to see Kryon on the day he disappeared. Moulton took Kyron to school that day for his school’s science fair and attended the science fair with him. When it was time for school to start, Moulton left the school and reported that she saw Kryon walking towards his first class. One of the most curious inconsistencies in the case was that despite Moulton reported she saw him headed to class, Kryon was marked absent for that day of school. Law enforcement can confirm that Kryon was at the science fair that morning, because Moulton took a picture of Kyron in front of his project—the famous photo seen around the country when the search for Kyron was launched.
Moulton was able to account for her movements for most of the day, reportedly doing errands and caring for her daughter who had an earache. It wasn’t until Kryon’s father, Kaine, and Moulton walked to the bus stop to get Kyron when he got off the bus that afternoon. When Kryon did not get off the bus, the worried parents contacted his school to ask about his whereabouts. When they could not confirm that Kyron had been in that school that day, the authorities were contacted.
The extensive search for Kyron spanned over ten days and included a thorough ground search of the area surrounding Kryon’s school. By July of 2010, the reward posted for information leading to Kyorn’s safe return was up to $50,000. Despite the large reward, no arrest has ever been made in Kyron’s disappearance. The investigation did however yield several interesting pieces of evidence. Law enforcement was told by Kyron’s father that Moulton had offered their landscaper money to kill him, and subsequently conspired with him to kidnap and kill Kyron. However, police were never able to gather enough evidence to charge Moulton with Kryon’s disappearance.
Kyron would be 18 years old in 2020. When he was last seen, he had brown hair, blue eyes, and wore eyeglasses. If you have any information concerning this case, please contact the local tip line at (503) 261-2847, or your local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.
Adults have the right to go missing, but do they have the right to go missing under suspicious circumstances? This is a question Alicia Gazotti has been asking herself for nearly a month since she stopped hearing from her daughter Mercedes Clement. Since the disappearance of her daughter, Gazotti has been pursing every possible avenue to get answers for her family. While investigators, family, and friends do their part to search for Mercedes, Gazotti is left wondering what circumstances must have befallen her daughter.
Mercedes Clement, 25, was last seen on October 11, 2020 around 11:00 in the evening, going into the apartment of an acquaintance on Empire Drive in Dallas, Texas. Mercedes was observed on surveillance footage entering the apartment of a male acquaintance. Due to a technical glitch, surveillance was not recorded between 1:30 am and 8am. It wasn’t until she stopped responding to phone calls and text messages that Alicia Gazotti and her family became worried. Mercedes’ car was found abandoned two days later, with her personal effects, including her wallet and keys, sitting on the front seat. It’s a piece of evidence that deeply troubles Gazotti. “This isn’t like all of the sudden she went to a friend’s house and no one can find her,” Gazotti told Lauth. “This is a girl who vanished into thin air. Cell phone’s gone, girl is gone. The car’s been abandoned. This is a different situation.”
When it comes to missing adults, law enforcement has an unfortunate challenge in terms of distributing investigators and resources. After all, persons over the age of 18 have the right to disappear, if they wish. However, it is unclear to Mercedes’ family why she would voluntarily drop off the grid. Gazotti told Lauth that Mercedes had completed her phlebotomy degree and was looking forward to taking additional courses to get more certifications. She had friends and hobbies she enjoyed, like horseback riding. In addition to parents and extended family concerned for her health and safety, Mercedes is also a young mother to a 5-year-old son. While it’s true that some missing adults have made the conscious decision to disappear from their former lives, Gazotti knew that Mercedes would never just disappear and leave behind her child, “She’s a mom. She just missed Halloween. She never misses holidays with her son.”
While Mercedes has experienced difficulties with mental health issues in the past, Gazotti told investigators that in the weeks prior to her disappearance, Mercedes was making plans for the future, both within her family and with friends. “She has a pair of friends who are expecting a newborn baby, and for the last few weeks, she’s been posting all over Facebook that she was looking for a good car seat for them, and she was so excited to give them that gift after the baby was born.”
Mercedes Clement is 5’6”, brown hair, brown eyes, and weighs 120 lbs. She has a C-shaped birthmark on her chin resembling a bruise. She has a thin build and was last seen wearing a black, spaghetti-strap tank top and shorts. Anyone with information can call the Dallas Police Department at 214-671-4268 with report number 191586-2020. You can also call the Lauth confidential tip line at 830-253-4070.
When a loved one goes missing in the United States, their families file a missing person report in good faith that local law enforcement will conduct a thorough investigation into their disappearance. Concurrent with the investigation, family and loved ones conduct their own information campaign, keeping their missing loved one’s face in the media to increase the likelihood of their being found. However, when a person goes missing in Mexico, families and friends might not have recourse from the American government.
American investigative bodies do not have jurisdiction in Mexico. When Americans go missing in Mexico, the FBI is only able to assist Mexican law enforcement in searching for the missing person. The Los Angeles Times covered the story of a missing man named Francisco Aguilar, an American citizen and firefighter. Aguilar was last heard from in an WhatsApp message from his Rosarito beach home. Aguilar’s ex-wife, Karla Izquierdo, remarked on how difficult it has been for her family in the wake of Aguilar’s disappearance, “This is a living nightmare. Since this happened, we’ve been meeting all these families in Mexico who have also been searching for their loved ones for years and have been left without answers.” Despite filing a missing person report, Izquierdo said it was weeks before investigators in Mexican law enforcement seriously looked into what has been called Aguilar’s “forced disappearance,” leading to hundreds of hours of lost time and case progression.
The Baja California Police Department has come to the defense of the Mexican authorities, stating that Aguilar’s disappearance was thoroughly investigated, particularly because there was immediate evidence of foul play at his Rosarita home, including missing property and blood found inside the home. Two people were arrested in Aguilar’s disappearance after being found in possession of his credit cards. A former San Diego police sergeant by the name of Oscar Armenta vouched for the Mexican authorities, “I can personally tell you they’re outstanding at investigations. They’re really good at boots on the ground, with the limited resources and the other challenges they face.”
When a loved one goes missing in Mexico, Americans usually begin their due-diligence inside the United States by filing a missing person report. Anyone can file a missing person report in the United States for a loved one who disappeared outside of the country—however, American authorities realizing they have no jurisdiction in the area will advise “if you think your loved one is in Mexico, go to Mexico.”
Americans who go missing in Mexico typically—either by design or by happenstance—have run afoul of illegal activity south of the border. Criminals in Mexico do not kidnap Americans for the sake of doing so. Missing Americans in Mexico typically draw a lot of attention from both media and law enforcement that make operating a criminal empire more difficult. Without recourse from other law enforcement agencies, there are families who follow their scant advice and travel south of the border in search of their loved one missing in Mexico, despite the fact that they also run the risk of coming to harm.
Not all families are equipped to drop their entire lives to search for a missing loved one. Even fewer are able to make it down to Mexico to conduct a proper search. That’s why many families turn to the expertise of Lauth Investigations International and their team of private investigators to find answers in the case of their missing loved one. A private investigator can be the ideal professional to conduct a missing person search in tandem with law enforcement. Private investigators are independent from law enforcement and are not bound by any jurisdictional restrictions. This means no time is lost in looking for the missing person. Private investigators have a diverse tool chest of skills that allow them to turn over every rock in Mexico in search of a missing person. Because they’re not law enforcement, witnesses are more comfortable opening up to private investigators, giving them necessary information needed for case progression. Lauth’s private investigators have previously worked with the FBI, Interpol, and other agencies to recover missing persons from throughout the globe. If your loved one has gone missing, call Lauth Investigations International at 317-951-1100.
A Woodland Hills family is breathing a sigh of relief this week since the recovery of a mother who had been missing for almost two weeks. Holly Courtier, 38, was found alive October 18 in Zion National Park in Utah following an extensive search by friends, family, and law enforcement. Holly Courtier had arrived in the area of the park on October 6 by virtue of a private shuttle bus that was meant to pick her up from the park the same day. She did not make the return trip in the shuttle bus however. Park rangers were able to locate her after they received “a credible tip from a park visitor that they had seen Courtier within the park.” While the circumstances of her disappearance still remain murky, her family is overjoyed to have her back. Courtier’s family expressed their gratitude in a statement, “We would like to thank the rangers and search teams who relentlessly looked for her day and night and never gave up hope. We are also so grateful to the countless volunteers who were generous with their time, resources, and support.”
Courtier’s story is not an isolated incident by any means. People go missing in national parks every year. When a person goes missing in a national park, the disappearance is usually attributed to the missing person having ran afoul of nature or misadventure, a non-human element that has caused them to come to harm and are unable to call for help. Data surrounding the exact amount of people who have disappeared in our national parks system is unreliable or inaccurate, depending on the source, because the government does not invest in resources for tracking these incidents. In the case of Holly Courtier, if she had not been located, her disappearance may have never entered a database. Courtier’s family may have had to settle for an educated guess by law enforcement that she was attacked by a wild animal. Courtier was luckily seen by another person visiting the park, leading to her safe recovery. The disappearances of persons in national parks over the years have concluded more favorably in recent years with improvements in technology and the amount of resources available to aid in searches in national parks. For Holly Courtier’s family, they now have the answers they need and their loved one back in their embrace.