California PhD Student Killed In Mexico While On Research Trip
Beauty in Sonora
AndreaCopp via Getty Images

A PhD student at the University of California Berkeley was shot and killed in Mexico while on a research trip.

The body of Gabriel Trujillo, 31, was found in Sonora, Mexico on June 22nd after his fiance Roxanne Cruz-de Hoyos reported him missing. Trujillo’s father says that his son was shot seven times. 

“Evidently he was in the wrong place,” Anthony Trujillo stated as he prepared to fly back home from Mexico with his son’s remains. Trujillo drove through Arizona and across the southern border into Nogales on June 17th to study the common buttonbush, a flowering shrub. 

Trujillo kept in contact with his father and his fiance on the 18th but then stopped responding to messages and calls during the day of the 19th. His fiance flew down to the area after she lost contact and heard from his Airbnb hosts that Trujillo had left his belongings but had not returned. 

The Sonora state prosecutor’s office explained that it is reviewing evidence in order to “establish the facts, conditions and causes of the death.” It did not, however, label the death a homicide or provide any other additional information about the nature of his tragic death.

Sonora, which shares its border with Arizona, is frequently used by the cartels, and has several drug and human smuggling routes. The area has been racked with violence, with cartel gunmen killing three American women and their six children in 2019. 

Trujillo’s family begged him not to go to Sonora, citing concerns for his safety, the Associated Press reported. Trujillo, however, thought that studying the common buttonbush, which grows in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, could bolster conservation and habitat restoration efforts.  

“Gabe was a passionate ecologist, field biologist, and advocate for diverse voices in science,” UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology stated in an email. “We all face a world that is less bright for this loss.”

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