David Hartley Update: Mexico Suspends Search for Missing American Tourist

David Hartley Update: Mexico Suspends Search for Missing American Tourist
David and Tiffany Hartley (Personal Photo)

McALLEN, Texas (CBS/AP) The search for American tourist David Hartley, whose wife insists was shot to death by pirates near the U.S.-Mexican border, has been temporarily called off, according to Mexican officials.

PICTURES: Tiffany and David Hartley

Tamaulipas state attorney general's office spokesman Ruben Dario Rios Lopez told the McAllen newspaper The Monitor that the search was suspended Thursday so that authorities can look into new strategies to find him and hopes police will be able to resume "in a few days."

Hartley's wife, Tiffany, says they were on their way back to the U.S. after photographing a historic Mexican church when pirates in boats opened fire on them, shooting her husband. She says she tried to help her husband but had to flee because they kept shooting.

Earlier Thursday a U.S. consulate official said Hartley may have been a victim of mistaken identity.

"I think what you had is two innocent American tourists who mistakenly stumbled into a bad area and were pursued and the shooting occurred," said Brian Quigley, spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.

PICTURES: Tiffany and David Hartley

Tamaulipas state is the center of a violent rivalry between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, a brutal drug gang made up of former Mexican special-forces soldiers. The search for Hartley's body has been repeatedly hampered by threats of an ambush from drug gangs, presumably the Zetas.

This week, a state police commander in Tamaulipas, Rolando Flores, who was investigating the Hartley disappearance, was killed, his decapitated head delivered in a suitcase to a local Mexican army post.

Mexican authorities say they don't know if Flores' death was related to the Hartley case because he was working on numerous investigations involving drug gangs.

Although no sign of Hartley or his Jet Ski have been found after more than a week of searching the lake, Quigley and local officials in Texas say they still believe Tiffany Hartley's story. The Stratfor report theorized that once the killers realized Hartley was an American, they destroyed the body to avoid a U.S. backlash.