SUGAR LAND, Texas – A Fort Bend County teen was killed over the weekend while traveling near Monterrey in Mexico.
Elisabeth Mandala, 18, was a senior at Kempner High School. Her mother said she last saw her daughter seven days ago and that her daughter traveled to Mexico without permission. How she got there or why she went remains unclear.
Mandala’s mother said few people knew where Elisabeth was, but a clue would come from Elisabeth herself on Facebook: "I'm in Mexico," she wrote. "I'll be back Thursday."
Mandala and two men were found beaten to death near the town of Mina. Their bodies were discovered Saturday morning inside a Dodge Dakota pickup that had crashed into the back of a larger truck.
Investigators believe the victims had been killed at least 10 hours before the crash, and the killers staged the wreck. A large rock had been placed on top of the gas pedal.
Mandala's friends and classmates back in Sugar Land were shocked.
"It affected everyone. There were people crying in the middle of class, in almost every single class I went to," said Jillian Thompson, a classmate.
"You just see them and they look so happy, they’re gonna be successful, and now it just shows it can happen to anybody in this world," said Ashley Gonzalez, a friend.
The other victims have been identified as Dante Ruiz Siller, 38, and Luis Ángel Estrella Mondragón, 44.
Siller, a merchant, and Mondragon, a cab driver, were from a small town near Mexico City. Relatives said the men left together on April 29, but they weren't sure why they were traveling to Monterrey.
Police said the men had several forms of fake IDs.
It's not clear how Mandala knew the two men.
"This news has saddened our staff and our student body, and our hearts and prayers go out to the family," said Kempner Principal Troy Mooney said in a letter sent home to parents Monday.
Grief counselors were at Kempner Tuesday for students and staff who needed to talk.
"It’s hard to believe because somebody that you see walking the halls is just gone," said Samantha Kremer, a classmate. "You don’t see them anymore. It’s hard."
Mandala's family members were in Mexico Tuesday working to bring her home.