Authorities in the northern central state of Zacatecas confirmed Wednesday that one of the four people killed in the state around Christmas was a U.S. resident. The state prosecutor’s office confirmed the man’s identity as José Melecio Gutierrez.
The man’s employer, Champlin Architecture of Cincinnati, Ohio, said in a social media post Gutierrez “tragically passed away while on vacation in Mexico visiting his fiancé Daniela Pichardo.”
Gutierrez, his fiancée, her sister and cousin drove to a nearby town for Christmas. Their bodies were found in a pit in January.
It was not clear if Gutierrez was a US citizen.
Local media reported that Gutierrez was setting a wedding date in Mexico and that there were signs of criminal gang activity near the ranch where his body was found.
The van used by the four victims was found with bullet holes and blown tires. TV Azteca reported.
Zacatecas has been the scene of bloody turf wars between drug cartels in Jalisco and Sinaloa.Department of Justice consider The Jalisco Cartel is “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal syndicates in the world.”
Zacatecas, which has Mexico’s highest murder rate per capita, is an important transit point for drugs, especially fentanyl, a potent synthetic pain reliever, to the US border.
The US State Department has included Zacatecas in its “no travel” recommendation for Americans because of ongoing crimes and kidnappings.
“Violent crime, extortion and gang activity are rampant in Zacatecas.” Recommendation says.
In a Facebook post, Champlin Architecture, Gutierrez’s employer, said it would create a scholarship in his name. Champlin Architecture will create a scholarship in his name at the University of Miami to honor his impact on our company and community, and will share details once this is established.”