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Colorado woman starting new life after drug cartel murdered her husband

Tiffany Hartley tells her story
Posted at 7:44 AM, Oct 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-04 09:44:53-04

GREELEY, Colo. — Nine years ago this week, a Colorado woman saw her husband gunned down in front of her at the border of Texas and Mexico.

Members of a Mexican drug cartel were blamed for the murder, which gained national attention and has never been solved.

Tiffany Hartley now has a new family, and she's looking forward to her new life. It's been nine years since her husband's death, but for Hartley, the pain has never gone away.

"I miss his smile and I miss his laugh," Hartley said.

On Sept. 30, 2010, Hartley and her husband, David, had been Jet Skiing at Falcon Lake, near the Texas-Mexico border, a week before moving from Texas back to Greeley, Colorado. Members of the notorious Zetas drug cartel surrounded the couple in boats and opened fire.

"He was shot in the head, and he was in the water, face down," Hartley said.

She tried to pull David on to her Jet Ski but couldn't lift him.

"The boats were coming back towards me. I heard God's audible voice saying, 'You gotta go.' I just had to leave him," she said.

Hartley made it to the U.S. shore but never saw David again.

"The dreams and visions we had were kind of stolen and taken away in an instant," Hartley said.

She came home to a media firestorm and became an outspoken activist against the cartel.

Despite the FBI's involvement, her husband's body has never been found. The killers have disappeared.

Hartley said her faith has helped her move on.

"I'm at peace knowing David is in heaven, and he's happy and he's having way more adventures than we could ever imagine here," she said.

She also credits the support of friends, family and total strangers for pulling her through some dark times, including being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012.

"I just appreciate everybody's support. People who come up to me in the store — I don't even know them — and just love on me. It just makes my heart feel so special," Hartley said.

And now from out of the darkness, a new beginning. Last year, Hartley married Tyler Owens.

Three months ago, the couple welcomed Avalynn Owens to the world.

"I truly see blessings coming out," Hartley said. "I didn't expect to have kids but here she is."

Now with a new family, Hartley said she's grateful for a second chance, knowing there's a part of her past she'll never forget.

"I just hold my memories dear about David, and the adventures we took and the love that we shared," she said.

Hartley said she's been on medication for her MS for seven years, and has had no major flare-ups.

The FBI says David Hartley's case is is still considered open and unsolved.

This story was originally published by Tom Mustin on KMGH.