UT Austin student murdered in Mexico 35 years ago

March 14, 2024, marks 35 years since the kidnapping and gruesome murder of Mark Kilroy, a UT Austin student, in Matamoros, Mexico. 

His life was cut short on March 14, 1989.

He was in his junior year studying pre-med. He went on spring break to South Padre Island and Matamoros.

His friend Ryan Fenley didn't go.

"About 48 hours before the trip, I backed out because I got invited to go on a snow skiing trip," Fenley said.

The group in Mexico went bar hopping. One friend went to use the restroom, and the group was separated.

"That three or four minute tops is when a truck pulled up, grabbed Mark and took off," Fenley said. "It was a Mexican drug smuggling satanic cult, and they were looking for a white spring breaker that particular night, and Mark was at the wrong place at the wrong time. They took him to a ranch right outside of Matamoros, which is owned by a cartel, and pretty much slaughtered him."

At first, his friends thought he may have run off.

"Mark wasn't that type of guy. He acted very well academically, athletically, was just a good, you know, very well-obedient guy. He was faithful and loyal," Fenley said.

After not hearing anything, they knew something was wrong.


About a month later, there was a break in the case.

"They discovered this ranch outside of Matamoros owned by this drug cartel, this satanic cult, filled with bodies," Fenley said. "I had a hard time wrapping my young head around it."

Authorities say the cult hoped human sacrifices would protect them from harm.

"As it began to unfold and unfold and became darker and more satanic and more evil and more evil, we all knew our lives were about to change," Fenley said.

The case drew international attention and has been the subject of books and movies.

As spring break rolls around each year, Fenley hopes to bring awareness, no matter where you're traveling. 

"If you're going to go into those areas, you better stay in groups. Do not get separated whatsoever, not even for one minute. Do not walk over there carrying lots and lots of cash. Do not carry lots of jewelry. Fine clothes will bring attention to yourselves," he said. "Know your surroundings. Don't stick your face in that phone. Know your environment. Be alert. Because if your head's down, and you're not paying attention, you can be a prime target."

He reflects on what Kilroy could've been.

"Mark today would've been a medical doctor. He would have been 56 years old. He would be done with UT, with med school. He would have a family," he said.

The U.S. Department of State says Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is, is under a "do not travel" advisory due to crime and kidnappings.