A Georgia first grade teacher who was last seen at a concert near Guadalajara, Mexico, last month was found dead inside a rental car in the city more than a week later and Mexican authorities have charged her boyfriend in connection with her death.
Alexandra Morales was on personal leave from her teaching post at Benefield Elementary School in the Atlanta-area when her body was recovered Tuesday, ten days after her family reported her disappearance during a trip to Mexico.
Mexican authorities charged 28-year-old Fidel Barragan with aggravated disappearance in connection with her death and could be eyeing additional charges as the investigation unfolds. Telemundo Atlanta, who spoke to Morales’ family, reported that Barragan was Morales’ boyfriend.
As the 24-year-old’s father and brother make their way to Mexico to transport her body back home, Barragan is set to make his initial court appearance on Friday and could face heavier charges including murder as authorities examine the causes surrounding her mysterious disappearance and death.
Morales' uncle, Ostin Cuenca, pleaded during the Telemundo Atlanta interview for U.S. authorities to chase down all leads to ensure justice is served in his niece’s death.
Cuenca said that after the concert, Morales’ family had tried to reach her by phone, but she didn’t answer and her phone appeared to be off. Not long after, they reported her missing.
According to a letter from the school’s principal sent to parents and obtained by local outlets, Morales had taken leave late last month.
Morales’ former classmate and friend, Yessica Ortero, said the 24-year-old had been eager to visit family in Mexico and was excited to attend a concert at the Telmex arena in Zapopan. After she vanished, Ortero said she “never would have thought she was going to be found dead.”
“I knew she was going to a concert because she had been posting about it,” Ortero told 11Alive. “I don’t know, I’m still in shock. You know, it’s sad.”
By late Tuesday night, after Morales’ family had alerted the school district of her death, the school’s principal Shonda Gipson-Stevens was frantically calling staff and parents of the slain teacher’s students informing them of the death of the teacher who had been hired just two years ago.
“We were all very hopeful that they would find her and she would be returning safely, but that was not the case,” Sloan Roach, a school district spokeswoman, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Maria Palacios, whose six-year-old daughter attends the school, told CBS46 that her “heart sank,” when she learned of Morales’ death, adding that her daughter began crying immediately when she told her Morales’ would not be returning to the classroom as planned.
“Before I could get the words out, my daughter was crying already,” she said. “I had to respond, explaining what it means to not come back, that Ms. Morales was not coming back.”
In an interview with 11Alive, Destiny Porter, the mom of one of her former students, said that her nine-year-old son, Greg, was still processing his former teacher’s death.
“It’s never easy finding out that somebody in your school community has passed away, especially if they were a part of your children's lives. We decided to tell the kids together as we do most things,” she said. “They were a little upset. I don’t think it’s really set in yet. They have questions like anybody does.”
In a GoFundMe page organized by one of her sorority sisters, Gabriela Rojas said that Morales was adored by her parents and two brothers.
“She had a passion for adventure and traveling around the world was her joy. She was the most caring teacher to all of her students and her first-grade babies will miss her dearly. She was a loyal friend to many and a proud Hermana of our sorority, Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc.,” Rojas wrote. “Alexa Morales made a beautiful impact in this world and we will carry her memory in our hearts forever.”