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Missing North Carolina hiker murdered in Mexico’s Copper Canyons

A 34-year-old hiker and high school Spanish teacher from Davidson, North Carolina, was murdered by a Mexican cartel in the Copper Canyons two weeks ago.

On October 24, Patrick Braxton-Andrew left North Carolina and landed in Chihuhua City. The next morning, he boarded a train that hugs the rim of the Copper Canyons, the deepest river-carved chasms on the North American continent. On October 26, he posted photos to social media showing that he was taking a bus down to Urique, an old mining town at the bottom of the canyons.

Braxton-Andrew was a runner and adventurer. He had read about the Copper Canyons and the town of Urique, which were featured in Christopher McDougall’s 2013 bestselling book Born to Run. Urique was the start-finish line of the epic Copper Canyon 50-Mile Ultra featured in Born to Run, and the race has grown in popularity since the book was published, attracting many runners and tourists to Urique. However, increasing cartel-related violence in the area forced cancellation of the race two years ago.

Braxton-Andrew stayed at a small hotel in Urique on October 26. Cell service on the canyon floor is unreliable, but Braxton-Andrew managed to send a few text messages from Urique to friends in the United States. They were his last communications.

Braxton-Andrew was last seen leaving his hotel in Urique around 4 p.m. on October 28.

When he failed to meet up with his brother Kerry a few days later in Mexico City, Kerry and his family alerted law enforcement and began organizing a massive search. Initially, it was thought that Braxton-Andrew had gone on a hike and gotten lost in the rugged, remote canyons—deeper than the Grand Canyon with no marked trails or signage.

However, it was later discovered that Braxton-Andrew’s belongings, including his camera, were all left behind in the hotel, suggesting that he had not gone on an extensive hike.

“He barely had anything on him,” Kerry told The Washington Post.  “And he would not be going on a hike without his camera.”

Since October 30, Braxton-Andrew’s family have continued to organize searches while also working with law enforcement and government officials on the investigation of his disappearance.

Yesterday, the family was informed by the state of Chihhuahua that Braxton-Andrew had been killed by a Mexican criminal organization.

The family issued the following statement:

Based on information provided by the Chihuahua State authorities, it is with great sadness that we announce that Patrick died on October 28th at the hands of a criminal organization that operates in the area where he was traveling. The search continues to recover his body so we can bring him back home. The authorities are searching for those responsible to bring them to justice. The family would like to thank the Chihuahua Governor and Attorney General for their unwavering commitment to locating Patrick.

Patrick died doing what he loved—traveling and meeting people. Join us in celebrating his life as he would want us to do. We will always remember Patrick and his joy for life. We love you PBA.

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