Wife of American tourist who survived Mexico cartel kidnapping says she didn’t even know he’d left US

The wife of an American tourist who survived the horror kidnapping by a notorious Mexican drug cartel has revealed that she didn’t even know he had left the US.

Eric James Williams and his friend Latavia “Tay” McGee were rescued from a drug cartel “stash house” on Tuesday, four days after they were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Matamoros, Mexico, while on their way to a tummy tuck clinic.

Their two friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were killed in the horror attack.

Mr Williams’ wife Michelle has now spoken out to reveal that she hadn’t even known he was going to Mexico – and a border city largely ruled by the Gulf drug cartel.

“I didn’t know that he was travelling to Mexico,” she told WBTV. “I just knew he was going somewhere to help two friends.”

Michelle said that she had last heard from her husband on Friday morning when he texted her.

She said she replied to his message “immediately” but got no response.

Now, she believes that was when he and his three friends were ambushed and kidnapped by the suspected gang members.

“He didn’t respond. He didn’t respond to our son either, so I’m going to assume that’s when they were ambushed,” she said.

“I highly doubt they thought this could have happened to them.”

Now, she said Mr Williams and Ms McGee are recovering in a hospital in Texas after suffering non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his legs.

Eric James Williams is recovering in a hospital in Texas (Family Handout)
Eric James Williams is recovering in a hospital in Texas (Family Handout)

He was shot three times in the legs during the attack and underwent surgery while Ms McGee appeared to be unharmed.

Michelle told CNN that she and their 11-year-old son had been able to speak to Mr Williams on the phone from the hospital where he was emotional about the deaths of Woodard and Brown.

To him, the two men were like his own “brothers”, she said.

Mexican officials are now carrying out autopsies on the bodies of Woodard and Brown’s bodies before they will be repatriated to the US.

The horror abduction began on Friday when the group of four American friends travelled from South Carolina to Matamoros for Ms McGee to undergo a tummy tuck procedure.

When the group crossed the border in their white minivan, they appeared to get lost and struggled to find the clinic.

Not long later, they were ambushed and shot at by a group of armed gunmen.

Disturbing video footage showed the four victims then being bundled into the back of a pickup truck by the attackers.

The video showed one person sat upright and moving while the other three were dragged limply into the vehicle. One of the victims being dragged did show signs of life by lifting their head.

The ‘stash house’ where the US citizens were found in Mexico (REUTERS)
The ‘stash house’ where the US citizens were found in Mexico (REUTERS)

Mr Williams’ North Carolina diver’s licence was found left behind at the scene of the abduction.

Officials believe the attack was the work of a drug cartel who mistook the victims for Haitian drug smugglers.

The incident sparked a huge international effort to track down the medical tourists, with the FBI offering a $50,000 reward for their return and for the arrest of those responsible.

On Tuesday, the victims were finally tracked down to a “stash house” along a rural area east of Matamoros called Ejido Longoreño on the way to the local beach known as Playa Baghdad.

A suspect – identified as 24-year-old Jose “N” – has been arrested over the fatal kidnapping.

Tamaulipas Governor Américo Villarreal said at a Tuesday evening press conference that the suspect had been tasked with making sure the victims didn’t escape.

Throughout the four-day ordeal, officials believe the victims were moved multiple times to evade authorities.

Several US officials pointed to cartel involvement in the incident with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying that the Biden administration remains committed to “disrupting transnational criminal organizations including Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers.”

The car in which four Americans were kidnapped by gunman (REUTERS)
The car in which four Americans were kidnapped by gunman (REUTERS)

“We remain committed to applying the full weight of our efforts and resources to counter them,” she said at a press brieding on Tuesday.

“Right now, our immediate concerns are for the safe return of our citizens, the health and well-being of those who survived this attack, and the support which must be rendered to the families of those who need it.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was sorry the fatal incident happened on Mexican soil.

“We continue to work every day towards peace and are very sorry that this has happened in our country,” he said on Tuesday.

“We send our condolences to the victims’ friends and family and the American people. And we will continue to work towards peace.”

The border city of Matamoros, based in the state of Tamaulipas, is largely controlled by the Gulf drug cartel, with violence and migrant smuggling rife.

The US State Department is advising Americans not to travel to Tamaulipas due to the risk of crime and kidnapping. The region is on the “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list.