A Winnipeg man on a long-awaited honeymoon with his wife at a resort in Mexico was killed last week after police were called to a fight at a hotel bar where the couple was staying, the man’s wife told CBC News.
Jesse Ropos, 36, died in the early morning hours of Jan. 13 after a 10-day vacation in Puerto Aventuras, a gated community located about 75 kilometres southwest of Cancun.
The father of three was killed just 12 hours before he was set to return home with his wife, Stacey Ropos.
“I went to go on this beautiful vacation with my husband and now I’m coming back with his body,” Stacey told CBC News Tuesday night, shortly after arriving back in Winnipeg.
It was their first big trip together, she said in an earlier interview Tuesday morning before leaving Mexico. Her husband’s body was being sent back to Canada on a different flight.
“It was essentially our honeymoon after getting married eight years ago,” Stacey said, fighting through tears. “Losing him was hard but trying to tell our babies when I can’t hold them and hug them and make them feel better — that was the worst.”
Stacey said she went to the hotel bar with Jesse earlier in the night. He stayed when she left to go back to their room, where she was later woken up by hotel staff asking her to come to the lobby.
“I could see the police tape and a woman came up to me and stopped me and said, ‘I’m sorry but I need to tell you that your husband’s dead,'” Stacey said.
“I just ran underneath that police tape and just ran to him and started screaming for him to get up.”
CBC News reached out to police in the state of Quintana Roo regarding Ropos’s death, but they referred the inquiry to the Quintana Roo state attorney general’s office, which couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
According to a translation of a document from the state attorney general’s office, which was written in Spanish and obtained by CBC News, Jesse died as a result of choking from strangulation.
Two men identified as hotel staff members were arrested in connection with Ropos’s death, according to the document, but no formal charges have been filed, Stacey said.
Removed from bar after fight
A report from police in the document says officers were called to the hotel due to a fight involving two hotel guests.
Stacey watched remotely in Mexico Sunday as a court hearing for the two accused in her husband’s death took place.
During that hearing she learned her husband had been removed from the bar because he was in a fight but was allowed back in after a friend they met in Mexico calmed him down.
“I guess the fight started happening again, so they removed him,” Stacey said. “They got him outside and from what I understand the security guard had got him down onto his knees and had his hands behind his back and the second man, which was the bar supervisor, ran out of nowhere and started putting him into … a sleeper chokehold.”
The hotel the couple was staying at has not responded to an email request for comment from CBC News and couldn’t be reached by phone.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said the department could not provide any details.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of the death of a Canadian citizen in Mexico,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Consular services are being provided to the family. Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed.”
Stacey described Jesse as a happy-go-lucky guy who always tried to look at the positive side of things.
“We had a really special bond and I’m sure if you ask many of his friends he was kind of that big, bright shining light who you could hear chatting from three rooms away,” she said.
Now, she’s planning her husband’s funeral service and honouring his memory.
An online fundraiser has been started by a friend, in part because the cost of transporting Jesse’s body back to Canada has exceeded what travel insurance will cover, Stacey said.
She paid more than $10,800 US to prepare his body and transport him home while the policy they had taken out covered up to $7,500 Cdn in repatriation cost, which is around half of the total bill.
“It was really kind of a rude awakening and shocking revelation to know that I bought this insurance thinking we would be covered,” Stacey said. “I’m incredibly thankful for the people that have stepped forward and helped me.”
“The funeral home, they’re not going to release the body until they have full payment. It was basically three days of pure stress trying to figure out this money situation.”
She said they felt safe at the resort during the trip but that all changed after Jesse’s death. Stacey said it prompted her to leave the resort and move to an undisclosed area while working with a lawyer and funeral director in Mexico.
“We specifically chose this place because it was a gated community,” she said. “It’s just crazy to think that we were supposed to be safe and that we were, unfortunately, far from it.”
None of the allegations against the men arrested have been tested in court and both are presumed innocent.