Mexican and U.S. officials aren't saying much about the apparent kidnapping and subsequent return of Arkansas resident Jessy Pacheco.
The Van Buren High School graduate, who had dreamed for years of becoming a doctor, earned a degree in medicine June 14 from a university in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city.
Two days later, the American reportedly disappeared after leaving a dance hall in the Providencia neighborhood well after midnight.
A fellow medical student who was with him, Carlos Alejandro Delgadillo Romero, was found beaten and shot to death, Mexican law enforcement officials said.
They portrayed Pacheco as a likely kidnapping victim.
After five days of authorities searching for him, news of the 29-year-old's freedom came Friday via a Spanish-language tweet from the governor of Mexico's Jalisco state.
"Jessy Pacheco, the U.S. student reported missing, is safe and sound," Gov. Enrique Alfaro Ramirez wrote. "He left for Dallas a few hours ago, accompanied by his mother."
The governor offered no other information about Pacheco's re-emergence or the reunion between Vilma Franco and her youngest son.
The state's attorney general, Gerardo Octavio Solis Gomez, also issued a brief written statement, according to Mexican news reports.
"The young American who disappeared, a student at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, has reappeared and has taken a flight back to his own country. We understand that he is in good health," Solis said. "Later on, if we're able to chat with him, we'll be able to provide more information."
Since then, Mexican officials have divulged few if any additional details.
The U.S. State Department has also been tight-lipped, people on Capitol Hill say.
"So far what we know is very limited," said Patrick Creamer, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., one of the lawmakers who had raised concerns about Pacheco's disappearance.
Family members aren't revealing the circumstances that led to Pacheco's release, though they report seeing the hand of providence in the latest developments.
The important thing is that mother and son are both north of the border, the new doctor's brother, Carlos Robles Franco, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
"They are in the U.S. now, so they are safe," Robles wrote via Facebook Messenger. "As to how he got his freedom, only GOD could have done that."
For now, the new doctor is declining interview requests.
Pacheco "probably needs some time to recover from this overwhelming episode of his life," Robles said.
The son of a Salvadoran immigrant, Pacheco was born in California in 1989 and moved to western Arkansas when he was 5 years old.
His mother worked in chicken processing plants to support her two sons.
Early on, Pacheco showed academic potential. Later, he took up soccer, eventually playing on Van Buren High School's state champion soccer team.
It was clear, Assistant Principal Tim McCutchen says, that Pacheco was special.
"He was just, you know, a great young man. He was really, really friendly. He was really driven, and he really wanted to better himself," McCutchen said.
After earning his high school diploma, the aspiring doctor enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
Later, he studied at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, known by its Spanish-language acronym -- U.A.G.
The decision to attend school there was driven, in large part, by financial considerations.
In Mexico, "education was a lot cheaper than the U.S., and he didn't want to give up his dream of becoming a doctor, especially with the aim of reaching out to the people in the Ft Smith & Van Buren area," his brother, Robles, recalled.
In Van Buren, population 23,691, roughly 15 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The bilingual doctor has expressed interest in pediatrics, friends say.
While Pacheco made it safely home, many are less fortunate, experts say.
"The country, in general, has been going through a convulsion of violence for the last 12 years," said Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, part of a Washington-based think tank.
In 2018, the FBI investigated 113 Mexican "kidnapping events" involving U.S. citizens or residents, according to a report by the U.S. State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council.
"Investigations implicated police (or former law enforcement officials) in many of these incidents," it adds.
Homicide rates have also been climbing. Murder convictions are rare, Wood said.
Often, people seized by criminals are never seen again, according to Michael Forbes, editor of the English-language Guadalajara Reporter.
"There are more than 5,000 disappeared people in Jalisco ... and many families here are desperate for news of loved ones that sadly is never going to come," he wrote in an email.
A Section on 06/23/2019
Print Headline: Kidnapping, release of Arkansas doctor shrouded in mystery; officials in Mexico, U.S. tight-lipped