Within 48 hours of Ximena Osegueda's disappearance in Mexico, her family's house there was ransacked – no sign of forced entry. Thieves didn't need to break in, her friend says: They would have had her key.
Christianne Odehnal, a longtime friend of both Ms. Osegueda and one of the men who found her remains, says those close to her believe there was a link between the two crimes.
But it wasn't until several weeks later, after frantic searches and a deluge of missing-persons posters, that Ms. Osegueda and her boyfriend Alejandro Santamaria were found – bound, stabbed, buried in sand and set on fire. By then, the corpses her brother and former husband stumbled across were in such a state of decay that coroners could only identify them based on moles and tattoos.
The pair's death has sent family and friends across the continent reeling – from Oaxaca, where her family lived, to Montreal and Vancouver, where 39-year-old Ms. Osegueda made a name for herself as a brilliant student, a fiercely strong martial artist and a mischievous prankster with a beautiful singing voice.
"If she caught your glance, she'd break into a smile. She was strong, happy, vivacious – a shining soul," Ms. Odehnal said. "She was stabbed in the throat, her hands were tied.… It's devastating."
Ms. Odehnal met Ms. Osegueda more than 15 years ago, when she began to train at Ms. Odehnal's Vancouver capoeira studio. Ms. Osegueda, who'd recently moved to Canada's West Coast from her family's home in Oaxaca, took quickly to the Brazilian martial art. It was also how she met her husband, Jacy Wright. They married, Ms. Osegueda got Canadian citizenship and went on to study at McGill University in Montreal. She and Mr. Wright remained close even after they separated about three years ago. He flew to Mexico shortly after she went missing, to assist in the search.
Ms. Odehnal says it was Mr. Wright, along with Ms. Osegueda's brother, who found the bodies subsumed in sand on a secluded Huatulco beach last week.
Ms. Osegueda had been living and studying in Mexico as part of her doctoral thesis at the University of British Columbia on Huatulco's history, particularly the ceremonies and celebrations around the "holy cross" of Huatulco. On her bilingual blog, Ms. Osegueda wrote about her work exploring creation myths and the "intersection of text and society."
Ms. Odehnal saw her in October, when she came to Vancouver to visit and train.
The last her friends and family heard from her was Dec. 13. Her car was found, empty, shortly after her disappearance.
"The day after, they robbed her parents' home. But there was no forced entry," Ms. Odehnal said. "They probably had the key from her."
A police investigation into the deaths is ongoing.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs cited advice to Canadians travelling to Mexico to be cautious given a "deteriorating security situation" in much of the country.
"While most major tourist areas have not been affected by the extreme levels of violence in the northern border region, it is highly advisable to travel to Mexico by air," said the statement, which linked the violence to organized crime.
But spokesman Ian Trites did not respond to queries from The Globe and Mail on whether the advisory would be altered in light of recent incidents involving Canadians.
Ms. Osegueda is the second Canadian this week to be confirmed dead in Mexico. Robin Wood, of Saltspring Island in British Columbia, was shot to death after confronting burglars at a friend's home.