Missing American architect found dead in Mexico in van full of bullets

A missing American architect was found dead in a van riddled with bullets, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Jose Gutierrez, 36, was visiting his fiance, Daniela Pichardo, in Mexico when he suddenly went missing on Christmas Day. Pichardo lived in the city of Colotlan, in the southern state of Jalisco.

On December 25, Gutierrez and Pichardo visited her sister, Viviana Marquez, and cousin, Irma Vargas, at a local bar in the town of Jerez de Garcia, Zacatecas.

The US State Department has issued a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning for Zacatecas due to ‘violent crime, extortion, and gang activity.’ They also warn that US citizens have been victims of kidnappings in the area, which is partially controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel.

Witnesses in Jerez de Garcia told local news in Mexico they heard screaming after they left the bar.

Fearing the worst, Gutierrez’s family filed a missing person report in his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, and also contacted the FBI.

Last week, police in Mexico announced that they discovered the remains of four charred bodies in a van full of bullet holes near a ranch in the town of El Cuidado.

On Tuesday, officials confirmed his death to Spanish newspaper El Pais. They needed to confirm his identity with a DNA test due to ‘skeletal reduction’ from the body’s severe burns.

The other victims were identified as Pichardo, Marquez, and Vargas.

After his death was confirmed, Gutierrez’s employer, Champlin Architecture based in Cincinnati, announced that it would create a scholarship in his name at his alma mater, Miami University.

Gutierrez’s death is only the latest in a surge of violence related to gangs and drug cartels in Mexico.

In August, a prison riot between two rival gangs spilled out onto the streets of Ciudad Juarez, killing at least 11 people. Another prison riot in the same city killed another 17 people on January 4.

More riots broke out in Sinaloa the next day after the government arrested cartel leader Ovidio Guzman Lopez, the son of notorious drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.

Meanwhile in the United States, former Mexican Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna is on trial in New York for allegedly taking bribes and coordinating with the Sinaloa Cartel – the same organization he was tasked with taking down.

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