'I Was Naïve': Wife Sought Answers After Husband's Cancún Death. Instead, She Faced Corruption and Red Tape

Widowed mother of two Jamie Snow is trying to find out how her husband, firefighter Elijah Snow, ended up dead in a hotel window — and if he was murdered

When Jamie and Elijah Snow traveled to Mexico in July to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, they made sure to not stray from the resort they booked, just to be on the safe side.

"Going into it, we weren't worried at all," Jamie, 35, of Arlington, Texas, tells PEOPLE. "You hear horror stories, but I always thought those things happened outside of the resorts or at a bar downtown," she says.

Now, Jamie tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story, "I was naïve."

On July 19, hours after Jamie and Elijah, also 35, checked into the Royalton Chic Cancún Resort & Spa, located on the beach in the area's popular Hotel Zone, he vanished after heading to the lobby bar for a nightcap.

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

The following morning, Elijah was found stuffed into a small window in a secluded section of the Sunset Royal Beach, next door to the Royalton Chic.

His torso was hanging out of the small opening and his feet were dangling inside what turned out to be a bathroom.

Even though Elijah's entire body was covered in bruises and he had a gash on his head, Mexican officials quickly labeled 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. Courtesy Jamie Snow

But a police officer at the station told her Elijah's death was a "homicide without suspects," and several days later, the local attorney general's press release stated that "the male from Texas USA . . . was trying to enter a bathroom."

"There was no way," Jamie tells PEOPLE. "None of it made sense."

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Devastated about the death of her husband, whom she considered the love of her life and her best friend, Jamie crumpled to the floor of her hotel room, awash in a torrent of tears.

elijah and jamie snow
Elijah and Jamie Snow and their girls. Avery Owens Photo

Little did she know that her real-life nightmare was only just beginning.

At the local morgue where Jamie was taken to identify Elijah's lifeless body, an officer showed her Elijah's face on a computer screen but refused to let her see his body or any photos.

"I told them I wanted to see him in person," Jamie recalls to PEOPLE. "And they said, 'Absolutely not.' I asked why, and they said it was because his death wasn't of natural causes."

The hotel staffer who'd accompanied her to the morgue then typed the words, "Do you have money?" into her phone.

Shocked, Jamie paid to see four photos of her husband — at $100 each, in cash.

For an additional $100, she was allowed to use her phone to take a picture of a police photo of Elijah's face.

"I wanted to know what in the world happened," she tells PEOPLE. "And then when they didn't want to show me the rest of the pictures, I was angry."

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Already confused, Jamie got more conflicting information when she and the hotel staffer went to the local police station.

"The homicide detective said that Elijah was found in a window and that everything appeared to look like there was no foul play," she recalls.

"The detective then 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."

Frustration Over Elusive Security Footage

Jamie's father-in-law, David Oujesky, who was among a group of friends and family who flew to Cancún to help her, demanded to see security-camera videos of the grounds.

But the hotel staffer who accompanied Jamie to the morgue and police station said, "Nope, we can't do that," Oujesky recalls to PEOPLE.

"I'm going, 'Well, why? I want to see them,'" he recalls. "And she just says, 'Well because there was a death.' I said, 'Well that's more reason to let me see them.'"

The employee held firm, saying, "I'm so sorry, the management won't let us do that," he recalls.

When Oujesky asked to go next door to see the footage, "She goes, 'Oh no, no, we can't do that either.'"

Later, he says, the family was told that the cameras at the Sunset Royal weren't working.

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

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

But an employee at the Royalton Chic who answered the phone, and was not acting as an official spokesperson, recently told PEOPLE that the resort did not give Jamie any security footage showing Elijah's movements after she left him at the lobby bar "because it did not happen on our property."

Every request to the resorts for information or potential evidence must first go through the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, says Jamie.

In July, she asked the Consulate for surveillance video footage from the many cameras on the Sunset Royal property.

She finally heard back in October.

"The initial response back was, 'We can't give you surveillance footage, we can give you pictures,'" she says.

"Then I sent a very specific request that said I wanted a still shot of every second from 9:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next day," she says.

She is still waiting to hear back.

She asked the Consulate to bring in the FBI to investigate.

The Consulate "responded to that request and said that [Mexican authorities] were doing a sufficient investigation and that the FBI wasn't needed."

The FBI declined to comment to PEOPLE.

PEOPLE recently reached out to the Bureau of Consular Affairs in Mexico, asking for an update in the case, including whether or not the FBI would be invited to investigate. PEOPLE also asked how safe it is to travel in Mexico.

A State Department official replied, "The current State Department Travel Advisory for Mexico is a Level 3: Reconsider travel due to COVID-19," before sending a link to the complete travel advisory.

The official said: "Some areas of Mexico have increased risk of crime and kidnapping. Travelers should read the full Travel Advisory for Mexico, which contains state-level summaries and advisory levels for information on specific travel destinations."

According to Causa en Común, a public-policy nonprofit, violent crimes rose in Mexico in 2021, and the U.S. Justice Department reports that 112 Americans died there of "unnatural causes" in the first six months of this year. Justice is often elusive: Last year nearly 95 percent of crimes went unsolved, according to México Evalúa, a government watchdog group.

And if you are a crime victim in Mexico, it's not unlikely that you could run into corruption on the local level, says former FBI special agent Stuart N. Kaplan. "Americans have a false sense of security," Kaplan says.

Wife Ramps Up Public Pressure for Answers

Now Jamie is forced to be a single mother to the couple's two young daughters, ages 6 and 5, and is still trying to figure out what happened to her husband.

She's contacted the U.S. embassy in Mexico, the U.S. consulate in Mexico, the FBI, the U.S. Department of State and multiple state officials in an effort to get help.

Jamie is even begging President Biden to involve the FBI — amassing signatures on an online petition.

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."

* With reporting by WENDY GROSSMAN KANTOR

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