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Inconvenient questions about the Mexico lake shooting story; Update: Poll added; Hartley unsure of Mexican persons of interest

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 9, 2010 07:00 AM

Scroll down for updates…Poll added below: What do you think really happened?…Hmmm: Suspects reportedly identified?…Hartley unsure if Mexican persons of interest identified by government are the attackers…

Longtime readers know that southern border violence has been one of my primary topics for as long as I’ve been working in daily journalism and writing books.

You also know I mince no words when it comes to Mexico’s hypocritical stance on border enforcement, perpetual state of bloody chaos, open-borders demagoguery/anti-Americanism, and outrageous incursions onto U.S. soil.

And you also know that I have long called out fishy hoax crimes however the political/ideological chips fall.

Which brings me to why I did not jump all over the alleged Mexico lake shooting last week involving Tiffany Hartley and her husband, David.

At this point, there are way too many unanswered questions and inconsistencies in Mrs. Hartley’s story/stories.

On Sunday, Mrs. Hartley told the Denver Post she outraced the alleged Mexican pirates trying to gun her down after they murdered her husband:

On Thursday afternoon, Tiffany Hartley said, her husband was shot in the back of the head as they were being chased in Mexican waters on Falcon Reservoir, 2 miles from the Texas border that divides the lake.

Hartley, 29, said she outraced pirates who were shooting at her as she rode a powerful personal watercraft that can reach speeds of 75 mph. Bullets were striking the water all around her and in front of her.

“I’m alive because of God’s protection. There is no other reason,” she said.

She apparently told Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. a similar story, explaining that she had to abandon her attempt to retrieve her husband because she was being shot at:

According to Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., Tiffany Hartley said she and her husband were returning to U.S. waters after sightseeing and taking photos when they saw armed men aboard some boats.

The couple “observed some boats coming at them at a pretty high rate of speed, noticed that some of the boats were armed so they immediately started, according to her, revving it up and gassing it up to the U.S, side of the border to prevent them getting hurt,” he said. “Then, of course, shots started being fired at them.

“She said she was seeing bullets hitting close to her in the water and realized that her husband had been hit behind the head,” he said. “She went back trying to find, trying to help him. She went in the water trying to load up her husband to her Jet Ski … trying to get his body and Jet Ski back to the U.S. side.

“She was being shot at so she finally had to let go of the body, climb back in her Jet Ski and head back over here to the United States,” he said.

Then, on Wednesday, she gave the Today Show’s Meredith Viera rather different details. She didn’t “outrace” the pirates and wasn’t “being shot at” when she was trying to pull her husband onto her jet ski.

Instead, this:

Viera: Yesterday, you told me, Tiffany, that ‘one of the boats came up to me’ — this is your quote — ‘and had a gun pointed at me, trying to decide what to do with me, and then they left.’ How close did these people come to you? Can you describe them to me?’

Hartley: Honestly, looking at the barrel of the gun is all I saw. I was pretty focused there. I couldn’t tell you what they look like. But they were within the length of my jet ski of me, which is about 10 feet.”

Viera: Why do you think, Tiffany, why do think that they would spare your life? If in fact they had killed your husband. Why would they want anyone around that could possibly ID them?

Hartley: I have no idea. All I can do is give God the glory. That’s all I can do. Is that he had touched them to leave me, and go and figure out with the other two boats what could happen, so I had that time to get away. [Without] God’s grace, I wouldn’t be alive.

On Tuesday night, Hartley appeared on FNC’s On The Record show with Greta Van Susteren.

Asked if the gunmen had gotten close enough to say anything to her, Hartley initially answered: “No, no they didn’t.”

Then there was this eyebrow-raising exchange when Van Susteren asked where exactly the boats were when she was trying to get her husband:

Van Susteren: When you were doing that, when you were attempting to help your husband, where were those other boats?

Hartley: Two were in front of me, uh, quite a ways a way. And one actually came up to my boat — er, my jet ski. And they had pointed the gun at me and they were talking amongst each other and pointed it back at me. And then they decided to leave [crosstalk] and meet up with the other two boats.

Van Susteren: Did you say anything to them?

Hartley: Yeah, I told them please don’t shoot, don’t shoot.

So in one version of the story, she outraces the pirates in back of her with guns blazing and her mortally wounded husband left behind in haste.

In another version, two boats are actually in front of her with a third boat that came within 10 feet of her — with none of them shooting anything at her as she rides towards and past them to get away while her husband’s life vest-encased body floats in the lake. Moreover, she simultaneously claims that the gunmen didn’t get close enough to say anything to her and can’t remember anything about what they looked like, but also that she a) looked down the barrel of their gun and b) told them not to shoot her.

Which is it?

Hartley tossed in more new details in an interview with CNN Headline News on Thursday: The alleged gunmen actually waved at them as they initially headed out on the lake. Yeah. A “friendly wave:”

:21 mark – Hartley: “When we were coming out, we saw them. They just waved at us. Like we were friendly. A very friendly wave.”

Watch the whole clip until the very end, when she adds more new details about yelling at her husband in the water, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know I don’t know.”

Am I the only one who finds her demeanor throughout this entire interview…strange?

Hartley says her husband was wearing a life vest. Neither a body in a vest or a vest adrift have been found. His jet ski is also still missing. There is a witness, though what exactly was witnessed is unclear and incomplete (the witness reportedly saw a boat chasing Hartley, but the reports do not say whether the witness saw or heard any shooting or whether the witness was able to describe who was in the boat). There is also police dash-cam video of the couple’s jet skis on a trailer and their truck, which was pulled over a few hours before the alleged murder because it carried expired registration stickers.

Mrs. Hartley’s life vest is in the possession of law enforcement and a small drop of blood on it is being tested:

Blood evidence would lend credence to Tiffany Young-Hartley’s harrowing tale of three boats of gunmen opening fire on the couple Sept. 30 as they were riding personal watercraft on the Mexican side of the lake, fatally shooting her husband in the head. Or the test results could raise more questions about what happened to David Hartley and what role his wife played in those events.

There are also strange variations in her accounts of where her husband was shot and how she realized or discovered the wound.

On Fox and Friends, she confirms he was shot in the back of the head — and then makes a point of adding the qualifier “as far as I know.”

A weird thing to say given the certainty with which she described him repeatedly as having been hit in the back of the head by a gun shot and then splashing forward over the top of the jet ski.

And then there’s this from the Today Show interview:

“I had to turn him over because he was face down in the water. I turned him over and he was shot in the head.

So was he shot in the front of the head or the back? Which is it?

Wendy Murphy has her own set of doubts and suggests that Mrs. Hartley may have murdered her husband.

Murphy omits another possibility: That perhaps Mrs. Hartley’s husband is still alive and counting on not being found. And that would be the best-case scenario. Ugh.

Other possibilities: Murder-for-hire plot. Drug deal gone awry. An attempt to cover up an accidental death. Or perhaps some version of one of Mrs. Hartley’s stories actually did happen.

There is no question that drug cartels and gangs are wreaking havoc at the border and on Falcon Lake. Nor is there any question that corrupt and impotent Mexican government officials, police, and judges have allowed violence to flourish unchecked.

But those facts should not blind anyone to the troubling wrinkles and holes in Mrs. Hartley’s story/stories.

GOP Texas Gov. Rick Perry is wrong to condemn anyone asking questions about Mrs. Hartley’s account(s) as “reprehensible.” Such politically expedient grandstanding only harms bona fide victims of southern border violence.

As for Mrs. Hartley, the more she talks, the more convoluted the story gets. Soon enough, hiding behind “God’s grace” and “giving God the glory” aren’t going to cut it anymore.

***

New poll (fixed previous version which omitted “Tiffany Hartley killed her husband)):

What really happened at Falcon Lake?
Mexican pirates really murdered David Hartley
Tiffany Hartley murdered her husband
Murder-for-hire plot
Drug deal gone bad
Insurance scam: David Hartley is alive
Accidental death and cover-up
Other
  
pollcode.com free polls

***

Update: Hartley expresses doubts about two men ID’d as persons of interest, via FNC:

The wife of an American man allegedly gunned down by Mexican pirates said she’s unsure that the two suspects named by Mexican authorities are the men responsible for her husband’s murder.

Tiffany Hartley, whose husband, David, was shot and killed on a U.S.-Mexico border lake, said she hopes that the two drug cartel suspects reportedly named by Mexican officials are behind the attack.

“It’s definitely frustrating because we don’t really know if these two people were actually involved in the shooting,” Hartley said in an interview Monday with Fox News. “Are they (Mexican authorities) just using two names that they’ve known that have been part of the other attacks?

“Hopefully these two guys are the ones that are responsible,” she said. “It’s frustrating because you don’t know what to believe.”

Indeed.

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