Wife of Arlington firefighter who died in Mexico details suspicions about cover-up

Jamie Snow, wife of Elijah Snow, appeared on "Dr. Phil" to explain why she believes Mexican authorities are lying about how her husband died

James Hartley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

ARLINGTON, Texas — The wife of Arlington firefighter Elijah Snow is speaking out about her suspicions that the way her husband died during an anniversary trip to Mexico is being covered up.

Jamie Snow, Elijah Snow's wife, said during an appearance on the TV show "Dr. Phil" that aired Monday that while in Mexico she was not allowed to see his body, was forced to pay bribes of $100 a photograph to police to see pictures of his body to identify him, had trouble getting the cooperation of resort administrators in her search for her husband before police found his body and was lied to about his injuries.

"I was begging, I was crying, I was begging them to just let me see his body," Jamie Snow told Dr. Phil McGraw in video on the show's website.

Jamie Snow said all of those things, paired with bruising she believes to be inconsistent with the way officials say her husband died, lead her to believe he was killed by someone else.

Mexican authorities have said that the Arlington firefighter on vacation in Mexico was accidentally asphyxiated when he became trapped in a window as he tried to enter a hotel bathroom. Jamie Snow said she was originally told the only bruises on Elijah Snow's body were on his abdomen and, while in Mexico, she was only allowed to see photos selected by local police when she identified his body.

Back in Texas, she said, she and her father-in-law did their own examination of his body. They found bruises on his head, face, neck, back, torso and legs that Jamie Snow said she believes are clear evidence that he was beaten, probably by more than one person.

Unusual circumstances

The couple was at a resort in Cancun, Mexico, on July 19 to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Going to Mexico was a tradition, Jamie Snow said, but they never left the resort. She wanted to go out on excursions during their visits, but Elijah Snow always said they needed to stay at the resort, where he felt safe.

"He was the cautious one," she told McGraw on the show.

Elijah Snow died at a hotel in Benito Juárez that is about 10 miles from the hotel where he and his wife were guests, according to a report from the attorney general's office for that region. Jamie Snow said she can't think of any reason he would have been off their resort's property, much less so far away.

Jamie Snow and Elijah Snow woke up around 2 a.m. the previous morning to embark on their trip. They spent time at the pool, had dinner at an Asian restaurant on the resort property and then had drinks at the hotel lobby. As the night grew older, Jamie Snow said she retired to bed but Elijah Snow stayed in the lobby for another drink.

Being up late was a normal thing for her husband, Jamie Snow said. He lived on a firefighter's schedule and would regularly stay up late or wake up throughout the night. Jamie Snow was asleep until around 4 a.m. July 19, when she woke up and felt for him in bed beside her, but he wasn't there.

She wasn't initially worried. The couple had made friends at the pool during their first day and she thought he might have fallen asleep on their couch or could be out at the beach. Still, she got up and started looking for him.

Elijah Snow had left his phone in the car before their trip, so she wasn't able to call him or use his phone's location to find him. Instead, she walked the resort until around 5 a.m., when she told McGraw she became really worried. Jamie Snow asked hotel employees to call police around 5 a.m. They told her instead they would keep an eye out for him and ask their security and security at other nearby hotels to see if they could locate him.

The hotel called police around 8:30 a.m., she said. At 10:30, she met with police. She was taken to the police station at 11:30, where she was questioned and shown a picture of Elijah Snow's driver's license.

That was when Jamie Snow realized something was wrong, she told McGraw. The couple hadn't given their driver's licenses to anybody in Mexico and had not sent pictures or scans of them. The only thing officials or the hotel would have on file was scans of their passports.

After being questioned, she said the person who escorted her from the hotel to the police station told Jamie Snow that Elijah Snow had been found dead. That's when she said she was told she could not see the body and was forced to pay bribes to see photographs. Police only allowed her to take a photograph of his face with her, and made her pay another $100 for that, she said.

She was taken back to the hotel, she said. When she got to their hotel room and was alone, the reality fell on her.

"I was still just in disbelief," she told McGraw on the show. "I wanted to believe it was somebody else."

Questioning the narrative

Jamie Snow isn't the only person to question the official story surrounding Elijah Snow's death. She told McGraw on the show that her suspicions started when police changed their narrative of events. Originally, she said, police told her the cause of death would be listed as a homicide with no suspects.

Instead, the cause was listed as "mechanical asphyxia due to thoracic-abdominal compression because he was trapped in a window when trying to enter a bathroom," according to an account from the attorney general's office that was released and translated from Spanish. Because of the height, Elijah Snow could not support his feet when the upper part of his body was stuck, and "he lost mobility and there was no point of support," the report said.

Authorities have not said how Elijah Snow got to the hotel where he was found dead, 10 miles from the resort at which he was staying, or why he would have tried to crawl through the window.

Jamie Snow said she can't see that being true. First of all, based on images she's seen, she said Elijah Snow was far enough through the window that he could have placed his hands on the ground and walked on his hands to get out of the window.

The bruising elsewhere on his body that she said indicates being beaten, stomped on and attacked with some sort of blunt weapons, leaves other doubts. She also can't imagine him pulling away a piece of wood she was told was nailed over the window, and trying to enter the window to use a restroom, Jamie Snow said on " Dr. Phil." She added that with his experience as a firefighter, if he had actually been trying to crawl through the window he shouldn't have had any trouble.

The Snows' extended family has also publicly questioned the circumstances surrounding his death and said they believed that he was kidnapped and beaten.

Family members did not believe the explanations given and hired a local attorney who obtained photographs of the scene, according to KTVT-TV. Randy Elledge, Snow's father-in-law, told the television station that it appeared that Elijah Snow had been beaten and possibly suffocated.

Elijah Snow had been a firefighter in Arlington for eight years and was the son of Ronnie Snow, an Arlington firefighter who died in 1985 during a training accident, according to Arlington fire officials.

Still processing and seeking answers

Jamie Snow said she doesn't think she will ever be the same after Elijah Snow's death and the way things were handled by Mexican authorities.

"It's changed everything," she said. "I don't trust anyone now. I still haven't processed everything I did in Mexico. It's not something I would wish on my worst enemy."

She said she and their children still talk to Elijah Snow as if he were there.

Jamie Snow agreed with McGraw when he said he didn't think she would give up in her search for answers to her questions. She's not satisfied with the answers she's been given by officials.


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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