"I never thought I would be here without my husband," Hartley said.
David Hartley always felt at ease on the farm Tiffany Hartley's parents bought three years ago. He was born and raised on a farm in Colorado. Tiffany Hartley always preferred a faster paced life. During their eight years of marriage, the couple traveled all over Mexico and the Caribbean.
"We liked adventure," she said.
The jet-skiing trip to Falcon Lake on Sept. 30 was supposed to be the couple's final adventure in South Texas. David Hartley's oil field job, which brought the Hartleys to the border two and a half years ago, was about to transfer him back to Colorado.
The Hartleys lived in Reynosa, Mexico, for two years to be closer to David Hartley's work. They had one close encounter with the drug cartel. Tiffany Hartley says they were forced to move out of their rental house when it was seized by cartel members collecting a debt from the landlord.
"We had six hours to pack," she said.
That didn't scare them and they soon moved to another house in Mexico. The Hartleys didn't think twice about taking their jet skis to Falcon Lake for a day of fun and sightseeing.
Tiffany Hartley says her husband wanted to visit and photograph the partially submerged Mexican town of Old Guerrero.
It was near that town in Mexican waters that Tiffany Hartley says men on speed boats approached and opened fire.
She told authorities her husband was shot in the head and appeared to be dead. She says she tried to pull his body onto her jet ski but he was too heavy. When the men in the boats began chasing her, she says she had no choice but to leave his body in the water and escape to the safety of U.S. waters.
David Hartley's body has never been found. While the investigation in Mexico is still considered ongoing, Tiffany Hartley doesn't know if police are actively searching for her husband and his alleged killers.
"The hardest part is not knowing," she said.
Since the attack, Tiffany Hartley has kept busy meeting with politicians and spreading awareness about border issues. Earlier this month, she flew to Texas at the invitation of Gov. Rick Perry to attend his State of the State address.
Daily life on the farm in La Salle is much different. It's quiet. The neighbors no longer target shoot because the sound of gunfire still terrifies Tiffany Hartley.
She's seeing a therapist and tries not to read what people write about her online. Some people still doubt her story and accuse her of plotting to kill David Hartley. They've also accused of her not showing enough emotion when talking about her husband.
"I mourn privately," she said.
There is plenty of time to mourn on the farm. A place she never expected to be without her husband.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)