Tou Ger Xiong loved going back to Colombia. “He talked about the happy people…” “He’s just having fun,” his brother Eh Xiong told BBC News. “He learned Spanish too.” “It never, ever even crossed his mind that he would end up in a tragic incident this way.”
Tou Ger was a Hmong-American community organizer and comedian from Minnesota who was 50 years old. Before his last trip to Medellin, he was talking to a woman on the internet. In mid-December, a few weeks into his two-month visit, he called his brother and asked for $2,000 without saying what it was for or that something was wrong. He said he would send the money. His brother was never seen or heard from again.
The next day, cops found Tou Ger’s body in the city, deep in the woods. Eh’s friend in Medellin told him that his brother had been taken hostage and was being held at gunpoint until the $2,000 ransom was paid. “I didn’t want to believe it.” “I was not sure if it was real,” Eh said. “My heart just sank.”
He quickly called the US mission and they confirmed that it was his brother’s body. Three people were caught this week in Colombia by police and charged with kidnapping and murder. One of the men was linked to his death.
The next morning, police found Tou Ger’s body in the city, deep in the woods. A friend of Eh’s in Medellin told him that his brother had been kidnapped and was being held hostage with a gun until the $2,000 ransom was paid.
“I didn’t want to believe it.” Eh said, “I wasn’t sure if it was real.” “My heart just sank.” He quickly called the US station, and they told him it was really his brother’s body. Spain’s police caught and charged three people this week with theft and murder. He was connected to the death of one of the guys.
A tourist watchdog in Medellin said that 32 foreigners had been killed in the city in the first 10 months of 2023. This is 40% more than the same time last year and includes at least 12 Americans and three people from the UK.
His friends wrote online that Jeff Hewett was found “lying dead in a pool of blood” in his hotel room in Medellin. They called him “an easy-going, wry, kind spirit” and said it looked like a “robbery gone bad.” Johny Jerome died on his 45th birthday. Local news sources say Phillip Mullins was given drugs and then died of an overdose.
According to the embassy, some of these cases started with a dating app being used to trick people. This is part of a worrying rise in the number of people who are “drugged, robbed, and even killed by their Colombian dates.” Both Tinder and Bumble are popular in the city, but neither would say anything.
Carlos Calle, who used to run the city’s tourism center, said that thieves often give tourists scopolamine, which is also known as “Devil’s Breath” because it has no smell. The US embassy also worried about the drug, which can keep people asleep for up to 24 hours.
In an interview, Calle said, “There’s a bad type of tourist in the city who looks for a certain kind of opportunities.” He said it usually has something to do with sex work. The tourism observatory stated that “majority” of last year’s victims were men, but they also said that many cases are still being looked into.
Colombia allows prostitution, and you can find a lot of it in tourist spots like Medellin and Cartagena. The guys who were killed didn’t seem to be using prostitutes, though.
Alok Shah, 36, believes that the scopolamine he took in late 2022 made his vision “go sideways” when he brought a woman back to his hotel room. He said it felt like his short-term memory was going away. The person from Texas had matched on Tinder with a Colombian woman in her mid-20s. After having coffee together, Shah chose to buy her some beers and bring her to his hotel.
When he first came to Medellin in 2017, he didn’t feel as safe or like prostitution was as common as it was when he went there a lot before. He knew that women were what brought people to the city, though. A friend told him, “If you’re single, the women here are very nice.” His date rubbed a powder on his neck before his watch, jacket, and $200 in cash disappeared that night. He was awake enough to know something was wrong, though, and he chased her away while threatening to call the cops.