After Husband's Mysterious Cancún Death, Wife Shares Shocking Experience of Examining Body for Clues

"To get any answers, I was going to have to do it for myself,' Jamie Snow tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story about her husband, Elijah Snow, who died under suspicious circumstances at a resort

Jamie Snow is a special education director, not a medical examiner.

But when her husband, Elijah Snow, ended up dead under mysterious circumstances during a trip to Cancún, Mexico, in July, the 35-year-old mother of two had to do the unthinkable: inspect his battered corpse for clues as to what happened to him.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," Jamie tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story.

"But I knew I had to do it," she says. "I just felt like at that point that to get any answers, I was going to have to do it for myself."

Jamie's ordeal began on the morning of July 19, less than 24 hours after she and Elijah had arrived at the Royalton Chic Cancún Resort & Spa to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

The night before, Elijah, 35, had failed to return to their hotel room after heading to the lobby for one last drink before the bars closed at 10:30 p.m.

After searching every floor of the resort for her husband, she was shocked when a hotel staffer told her his lifeless body was found stuffed into a small window in a secluded section of the Sunset Royal Beach, next to the Royalton Chic.

His torso and arms were hanging out of the small opening and his feet were dangling inside a bathroom.

elijah and jamie snow
Elijah and Jamie Snow. Courtesy Jamie Snow

For more on Jamie's quest to find out what happened to her husband, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

In the privacy of her hotel room, "I crumpled to the ground, crying," she tells PEOPLE. "I was screaming. I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I had family calling me, people trying to figure what's happening. I didn't know, so I couldn't answer any questions."

Mexican officials initially ruled Elijah's death an accident. "That afternoon, police told me there was no foul play; he was trying to climb out of a restroom window, got stuck and suffocated there," Jamie tells PEOPLE.

elijah and jamie snow
Elijah and Jamie Snow.

Later, a detective at the police station said Elijah's death would be labeled as a 'murder without suspect' on his death certificate," she says.

"I was already confused because they were saying there's no foul play, but then it's 'murder without suspect' and he's in a window," she says. "None of it made sense."

The Royalton Chic refused to share its surveillance footage with Jamie and the Sunset Royal, where he was found, said the cameras there weren't working, her father-in-law David Oujesky, who flew to Cancún with other family members and a friend to help Jamie, tells PEOPLE.

"We knew right there we were up against a wall," Oujesky says.

(The Royalton Chic, the Sunset Royal, and the local police did not respond to multiple calls and emails from PEOPLE requesting comment about Elijah's death.)

An Unthinkable Task

After being brought to the morgue, Elijah's body was taken to a funeral home, where the funeral director dressed Elijah so that she and the others could "say goodbye in a formal manner," says Jamie.

Jamie could barely get through it.

"I was extremely overwhelmed," she recalls. "I was still very shocked. I was crying. I was talking to him. I was hugging him. I was basically laying on the coffin. It was a lot."

With no answers coming forth as to how her husband ended up in a casket on their dream trip, Jamie and Oujesky, a former firefighter, decided to take matters into their own hands.

After the family said their goodbyes to Elijah, Jamie and Oujesky went to a back room at the funeral home to examine Elijah's body.

"My father-in-law and I physically manipulated my husband's body to take pictures of his entire body," she says. "We took pictures of every wound, every bruise, every gash, every inch of his body, so that we had documentation of what he looked like."

She says she wasn't crying while she was taking the pictures. "I was just apologizing," she says. "Every time we touched him or moved him, I mean, it was, it was awful."

Jamie says she couldn't believe what she saw.

"He had scratches on his arms," she says. "The two biggest bruises that didn't make sense to us, with him being stuck in a window, were the inside of his thighs. The bruises appeared to be shoe marks. They were very similar in size and shape to a male size shoe. Almost like a work boot.

"In my mind, I concluded that somebody was stomping on his stomach and that's how they got the bruising on his stomach. And they missed a few times and got the inside of his legs."

That wasn't all. "On his back, right at his shoulders, he had four circular-looking bruises that almost looked like someone was holding them down with a knee or he was hit in the back with something circular," she says.

The back of his head was also covered in bruises, she says. "He had two gashes on his head, but one was fairly deep and had a cylinder shape. The one on his forehead almost looked like a pipe or a bat or something of that nature."

Jamie says she can never shake those harrowing images from her mind. "I know that I probably have PTSD from it," she says.

The Choice to Cremate

Well before he died, when Elijah and Jamie were discussing their final wishes, he told her he wanted to be cremated. She had no idea she would be planning his funeral when he was just 35 years old.

"I felt like I was very torn emotionally because I wanted to get him back to the United States and I wanted to get out of Mexico as quickly as possible," recalls Jamie, who says she and her family feared for their lives at this point.

"I also wanted to get his body back and do more evaluations to see if we could get any more information."

To do that, she would have had to stay another week in Mexico "because I wasn't going to go home without him," she says.

His body had to be embalmed before being allowed on a plane, she says.

"And then the accuracy of an autopsy decreases significantly after, so in my mind, to go have him embalmed, put him under the plane by himself, have him cut open again, have all of this done – he would want me to follow through with his wishes and have him cremated."

She talked it over with his mom and stepdad and the rest of the family and decided to have him cremated.

"Ultimately, I wanted to honor his wishes. And so we had him cremated, and then we left as soon as we could."

Trying to Move on without Elijah

In July, Jamie left for Cancún to celebrate 10 years of marriage to the love of her life and came home a widow.

Now she has to raise their two young daughters alone.

Her parents and Elijah's parents help her by picking up the girls from school and watching them until she comes home from her full-time job.

Generous friends in her neighborhood pick up the slack from there.

"We have a wonderful, wonderful support system of neighbors that is our second family," she says. "I mean, I don't think that there's a day that goes by that one of them doesn't bring me dinner, take out my trash, or come over with tools just to check on everything at the house.

"They have embraced our whole family and made sure that we get through the day. I've had one of my neighbors come and just lay in the bed with me and cry. And she just sat there and we just laid there and cried together."

She is trying to get used to this new normal.

"I've had to go from being what I would have said was a picture-perfect representation of a family," she says, "to trying to navigate this life as a single working mom now without my best friend.

"Every day is an emotional roller coaster."

Jamie still has no answers.

A GoFundMe started by Elijah's family to help Jamie and the girls says that the "family is asking for support to assist with his family's needs, both present and future, as well as continuing with the investigation surrounding the circumstances of his death.

"We humbly ask that you help in any way you can. Any help you can give is appreciated, whether it's financial or just sharing the story in an effort to bring Justice for Elijah and his family."

Related Articles