Mexico investigating death of Texas high school student as homicide

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — The body of a Texas high school student reported missing by her mother has been found in Mexico and police are investigating her death as a homicide, authorities said Wednesday.

Elisabeth Mandala, 18, and two Mexican men were found dead Saturday in a crashed pickup truck near Mina, a town in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon.

Autopsies revealed that all three died from severe blows to the head and body, according to a spokeswoman from the Nuevo Leon state Attorney General's Office.

Investigators believe the accident was staged, she said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with agency policy.

The motive for the killing was unknown. The relationship between Mandala and the two Mexican men was also unclear.

Mandala, a senior at Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas, was last seen April 27 leaving her mother's home. The mother reported her missing around midday Saturday, Houston police spokesman Victor Senties said.

The three victims were found in a truck with Texas license plates. It had been hit by another vehicle, but the accident was considered too minor to have caused the deaths, according to the Nuevo Leon attorney general's spokeswoman.

The two men killed were taxi driver Luis Angel Estrella Mondragon, 44, and merchant Dante Ruiz Siller, 38. The spokeswoman said the two were friends from Cuauhtitlan, near Mexico City, but police did not know why they were in Monterrey with Mandala.

A representative of the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey reclaimed Mandala's body with authorization from her father, the spokeswoman said.

Kempner High School principal Troy Mooney wrote a letter to parents saying Mandala had died while traveling in Mexico over the weekend, but it did not contain further details.

A Fort Bend Independent School District spokeswoman did not immediately return a message Wednesday from The Associated Press.


Associated Press Writer Diana Heidgerd in Houston contributed to this report.