An American teacher whose confusing disappearance in Mexico last month resigned from a social media campaign to request information was killed by a drug cartel, the Mexican authorities said on Thursday.
Teacher Patrick Braxton-Andrew, 34, went on a stroll on October 28 off the remote city of Urique, in Mexico's northern state of Chihuahua, and never returned.
The authorities now say that Mr. Braxton-Andrew was killed on the day of José Noriel Iran Gil, a member of the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel, operating in much of the country, according to a Facebook post on the official side of Javier Corral Jurado, Governor of Chihuahua state.
"During the progress of the investigation, I can say that it was a fierce and brutal murder, by an innocent person, a mere man whose accident would cross roads with this breed," wrote Corral on Thursday.
The authorities said they were looking for the murderer, but did not reveal how they decided that Mr. Braxton-Andrew had been murdered. His body has not been found.
Mr. Corral has promised to bring justice to his family and promised him as an "explorer who loved Mexico and its people".
The Sinaloa cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful drug smuggling rings, is active in many parts of the country's north, which exert influence and control through violence, kidnapping and targeted deaths.
While the city of Urique is not saturated by tourists, it is known as a destination for the famous El Chepe train, which passes through the stunning natural landscape of the Copper Canyon.
Mr. Braxton-Andrew, who was from Davidson, N.C., was an algebra and Spanish teacher and had backpacked a lot throughout Latin America.
Mr Braxton-Andrew, who was fluent in Spanish, had traveled alone in northern Mexico for a break from his job as part-time teacher in a private school in North Carolina. He had traveled by train at El Chepe and walked alone in the Urique area. He had planned to meet his brother in Mexico City later this month, his family said in a statement. When he failed to do it on October 30, family members knew something was wrong, they wrote on one dedicated Facebook page.
The page they created confirmed their death and presented a tribute on Thursday. The family thanked Chihuahua governor and lawyer general for "their insignificant commitment to finding Patrick."
"Patrick, however, does what he loved – traveling and meeting people", the reading. "Join in celebrating his life as he wants us to do. We always remember Patrick and his joy for life."
During the weeks of uncertainty about Lord Braxton-Andrea's fate, his relatives shared constant updates of what little they had learned about his disappearance, mixed with accounts of a man they said had love for travel, sports and education.
They wrote that Mr. Braxton-Andrew was last seen around 4 o'clock on October 28 when he walked a walk from his hotel in Urique. He had been discovered walking near a ranch outside the city, and the locals were looking for him after reading that he was missing, with a local police who went into the effort three days later.
His family set up a base in Mexico City over the past few weeks to monitor the search, according to The Charlotte Observer, who spoke to them on Wednesday one day before the news broke off Mr. Braxton-Andreas's death.
As part of the social media campaign that sought information, dozens of supporters shared photos of Mr. Braxton-Andrew with hashtag # FindPat and its Spanish-speaking counterpart, #BuscaPato.
The family also obtained help from Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina, whose office was in contact with Mexican law enforcement officials.
On Friday, Mr Tillis said the work of finding and repatriating the teacher's body would continue.
"Our hearts go out to his loving family, friends and communities Davidson and Mooresville, where he touched countless lives", Tillis Tillis said in a statement. "Patricks family deserves justice, and I will continue to work with the US Department of State and Federal officials, as the Mexican law enforcement continues its investigation."