Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/03/24/us.mexico.relations/art.mexico.juarez.afp.gi.jpg caption="A federal police officer guards a checkpoint earlier this month in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico."]
Randi Kaye | Bio
It’s not every day I start an interview for our show, with the people I'm talking to already in tears.
That’s what happened yesterday when I interviewed a San Diego woman and her husband about how they were ambushed on a Mexican highway - with their son and daughter in the car.
It happened a year and a half ago but they are still haunted by it. Afterward, Chris Hall was awake for two days straight. Their 21-year-old daughter was sleeping 20 minutes a night. Debra Hall still doesn’t sleep well, and when she fills up at a gas station, she locks herself in her car. She’s still terrified.
Debra and Chris Hall were high school sweethearts and they’ve been crossing the border into Mexico for 26 years together . But after the ambush, a family vacation there in November 2007 was their last.
The couple walked me through the details of this terrifying ambush.
It was a cold and foggy night, just before midnight.
They were pulled over by a car with flashing lights about seven miles from the U.S. border. They were on their way home from vacation and a big car race in Cabo they attended every year.
Ten men, dressed in black, popped out of the two cars and pointed guns at their heads. Debra says she’ll never forget the tone of her son’s voice when he said, “Oh God, please no God.” She told me if she lives the next 100 years she will hear that in her head. He had just turned 16.
The men took their jewelry and wallets and then demanded to know where the race car was. You see, the family’s truck was hauling an empty car trailer so the men must’ve thought they were a good target. They could trade the race car for drugs or cash.
When the family couldn’t deliver the goods, the Halls were forced back into their truck and driven up into the Mexican hills. Here is where they thought they would die. They were told to kneel, face down in a ditch.
The men covered them with a sleeping bag and Deborah thought it was to prevent blood splatter on the men’s clothing. Chris told me he tried to cover his daughter, then 21, with his body. He whispered to her, “I’m sorry.” Then, suddenly, silence.
As the Halls lay waiting for a bullet, they realized the men had left in their truck. They quickly and quietly tried to work their way back to civilization. It took them two hours before they finally found a stranger who called Baja police. The police drove them back over to the U.S. side of the border.
The Hall family had no money and no ID at this point so they borrowed a quarter from a stranger to use a payphone and call a relative to come get them. The men who ambushed them were never caught and the scariest part is they still have the Halls' home address from the drivers licenses they stole.
The Halls have put a security system into their home, but they still fear these guys will slip across the border and find them. They filed police reports with both San Diego police and the Mexican Consulate, but they don’t believe anyone even looked for their attackers.
And the nightmare continues. A few months ago Chris’ truck was found near Yuma, Arizona. They say they were told it had been used to transport illegal immigrants.
And Debra says she got a call recently from the U.S. State Department about a suicide in Mexico they thought was her husband. She says they told her that her husband had hung himself, that the dead man had her husband’s drivers license in his pocket. It obviously wasn’t her husband but it was Chris Hall’s driver’s license.
And the Halls say someone is still charging on their credit cards which they canceled. Shoes and clothing were charged in Tijuana along with a $2500 dollar dinner.
This whole mess cost the Hall family about $120,000, some of which is covered by insurance, but they say what they’ve really lost is their innocence and peace of mind.
They say they’ll never return to the vacation spot they loved and visited for a quarter century, and they don’t think others should either.
In fact, they know they’re putting themselves at risk but told me they wanted to share their story to warn other families, especially college kids who think Mexico is where they should go for spring break.
They’ve found a new place to vacation - Hawaii. They’re heading there soon to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and, in a way, to celebrate life, which was so close to being cut short on a deserted Mexican highway.
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