The remains of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown likely will be transported to a funeral home in Brownsville, Texas, a US official familiar with the investigation said. The repatriation would come two days after the bodies were discovered alongside their two surviving friends in a house around the Mexican city of Matamoros.
Autopsies were completed Wednesday morning in Mexico, an official from the Tamaulipas Prosecutor’s Office told CNN, though Mexican authorities have not released causes of death. Second autopsies will be performed in the US, the US official said.
CNN has reached out to the US State Department about the repatriation of remains.
The deceased were part of a group of four friends from South Carolina who had driven Friday into Matamoros so one of them, Latavia Washington McGee, could undergo a medical procedure, two family members told CNN. But their trip was violently interrupted when unidentified gunmen fired on their van, then loaded the Americans into a vehicle and drove them away, the FBI said.
Survivor Eric Williams was shot three times in his legs, his wife Michele Williams told CNN. When he and McGee were discovered alive Tuesday, Williams was taken to a hospital in Texas for surgery, she said.
Washington McGee was also taken to the hospital, her mother, Barbara Burgess, told CNN, though Mexican authorities said she was uninjured.
“She watched them die,” Burgess said, recounting what Washington McGee told her about the kidnapping. “They were driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that’s when they started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van. … She said the others tried to run and they got shot at the same time.”
Washington McGee and Brown are cousins who were raised together as closely as siblings, Burgess said.
“He was a good person, and I miss him,” Burgess said of Brown. “I loved him. (There’s) nothing I wouldn’t do for him.”
Investigators believe the group was targeted by a Mexican cartel who mistook them for Haitian drug smugglers, a US official familiar with the investigation told CNN on Monday, and the kidnapping has renewed attention to efforts by US and Mexican officials to combat organized crime in Mexico.
During a Wednesday news briefing held by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a government-sponsored fact-checking agency claimed reports of the Americans being mistaken for Haitian drug traffickers are false. The president said “adversaries” in Mexico and the US are attempting to make a “scandal” of the case.
CNN has reached out to investigators in the US and Mexico, as well as the fact-checking agency.
Mexican authorities are still investigating the kidnapping.
One person, identified as 24-year-old Jose “N,” was detained when the Americans were found Tuesday, according to Tamaulipas Gov Américo Villarreal, though officials would not confirm whether he is connected to a criminal organization.