In the early hours of the morning on October 30, Kandace Florence, 28, sent distressing messages to her boyfriend in which she told him she was not feeling well. “I feel like I’ve been drugged,” she told him. She had been at a Mexico City bar with two of her friends, Jordan Marshall, 28, and Courtez Hall, 33. They had traveled from the United States to attend Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities. Hours later, the three US citizens were found dead in the Airbnb apartment they’d rented in the Cuajimalpa district, a wealthy area of the capital city. More than a week after their deaths, the victims’ families have little clarity about the circumstances in which their loved ones died in Mexico.
The Mexico City Prosecutor’s Office told EL PAÍS that it has opened an investigation, the initial findings of which indicate that Kandace, Jordan and Courtez died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Kandace’s boyfriend, Victor Day, 30, does not believe the authorities’ preliminary conclusion. “She told me she felt drugged before she went back to the apartment,” he told EL PAÍS. Airbnb did not answer any questions about its responsibility in this incident; it simply removed the ad for the apartment where the deaths occurred from its website.
At around 3am on Sunday, October 30, Victor began receiving strange messages from Kandace. This was the exchange:
-”I feel extremely tired,” she told him. I don’t feel well. I want to get home.
-What’s wrong? Is everything okay?
-I feel like I’ve been drugged. Like I’ve taken ecstasy, but I haven’t.
-Where’s Jordan? Are you home or are you still out?
-I just got here. I’m literally in pain and pacing around the apartment. I’m shaking.
Victor and Kandace then spoke on a video call. At times, he could hear her vomiting and retching. “She was visibly suffering,” he recalls. In Mexico City, slipping drugs into drinks has become modus operandi for committing abuses, especially against women. Victor asked Kandace if she ever left her drink unattended. “Mexico is not a country where you can be careless. It’s very dangerous,” he told her. Kandace assured him that she had not been careless at all. On her Instagram stories, Victor saw that the three friends had been drinking wine on an outdoor terrace with tables and plants, in a quiet and rather intimate atmosphere. They ended the call. Victor believed that she would be fine after she got some sleep. “I tried to call her again, but I didn’t get through. I told myself that maybe it was nothing; that she would throw up whatever they gave her, sleep, we would talk again in the morning, and she would tell me what happened. Unfortunately, that was the last time I spoke to her,” he says in a telephone interview from Virginia.
To date, the victims’ relatives do not know which bar they went to. “The Mexican authorities have not given the families any answers about what happened,” Victor laments. “They have only said that investigations are ongoing, but it’s been too long. It has been very difficult.” The US Embassy has assured EL PAÍS that it is closely monitoring the local authorities’ investigation and providing consular assistance to the families. Kandace would have turned 29 on November 10. She was an entrepreneur and had just started a candle business. Her friends, Jordan Marshall and Courtez Hall, were teachers in New Orleans. The three traveled to Mexico City on October 28 and planned to return home on November 1.
After trying to reach Kandace by text and calls for several hours on Sunday, Victor wrote to Jordan, who did not respond either. Victor remembered that Kandace had shared the link to the Airbnb apartment where the three friends were staying. He contacted the hostess to inform her of the situation. She told him she would ask the building’s security guards to check the apartment. Within 15 minutes, Victor says, the owner of the apartment called him back to tell him that, unfortunately, the three friends had been found lifeless in the apartment. The hostess said that she would call emergency services.
The Mexico City Prosecutor’s Office maintains that their deaths were caused by “possible poisoning from gas inhalation… Preliminary reports established that security guards at the residential complex where the events took place requested support from Secretariat of Citizen Security officials when they noticed a strong gas smell in an apartment,” the report, which was sent to this newspaper, stated. “In the apartment, the officers found the bodies of a woman and two men of US nationality, so they called for an ambulance; the paramedics determined that [the three Americans] were deceased. According to the forensic studies…the three persons in question died of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Victor noted that the rental ad said that the apartment had carbon monoxide sensors. “If gas was the cause, how is it possible that the sensors did not go off to alert them? How is it possible that the security guards who found them were not poisoned as well? And how could Kandace tell me that she felt drugged long before she returned home?” he asks.
Family members expect the bodies of Kandace, Jordan and Courtez to be repatriated to the United States this week.