Héctor González Antonio's body was found at around 7 a.m. on May 29, 2018, in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, according to news reports. The journalist was last seen leaving his girlfriend's house at approximately 11 p.m. the night before, the reports said. González's body and face showed signs of being beaten, possibly by rocks, according to Luis Alberto Rodríguez, a spokesperson for the state attorney general's office.
Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, who heads the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), told CPJ on May 30, 2018, that a federal investigation into the murder has been opened. Rodríguez said that, while beating was not the "usual modus operandi of criminals," law enforcement was still investigating all possible motives into González's killing.
On May 30, Tamaulipas state attorney general Irving Barrios said in an interview with journalist Carmen Aristegui that a robbery or a brawl were the most likely motives behind the killing, citing the nature of the injuries to González’s body and that he was found without personal belongings. Barrios said that the authorities had not rejected journalism as a motive.
A spokesperson for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the record, told CPJ on May 29, that González had not reported receiving any threats to the institution and that he was not aware of the journalist being enrolled in any federal protection scheme. Two journalists from Ciudad Victoria and one reporting on the region, who all of whom knew González, and who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told CPJ they were not aware of any threats against their colleague.
González, 39, covered general news, including politics and crime, for the national newspaper Excélsior and the television broadcaster Imagen, according to the journalists. His most recent articles for Excélsior were on crime in Tamaulipas, including criminal gangs involved in shootouts and blockades in the city of Reynosa, and the arrest of four police officers accused of involvement in a kidnapping that took place on May 26, 2018.
The journalist was also the founder and editorial director of the local news website Todo Noticias and he previously worked as a reporter for Expreso, a local newspaper in Ciudad Victoria, where he covered crime and security.
As of early June 2018, CPJ was unable to find contact details for the victim's family for comment. Requests for comments from his co-workers at Excélsior, Imagen, Todo Noticias, or Expreso were not returned.
On September 3, 2018, the Tamaulipas state attorney general’s office released a statement to local and national media that a male suspect had been arrested in the murder case. According to the statement, Óscar Zuriel ‘N’ was one of several individuals suspected of attempting to rob G0nzález of his car and murdering him after the journalist resisted the robbery.
The attorney general’s office did not provide further details on the number of suspects involved in the murder. It stated that murder as a result of resisting the robbery was now the principal line of investigation, but that it had not yet discarded the reporter’s work as a journalist as a possible motive. No further suspects have been arrested as of early December 2018.
Several attempts by CPJ to reach the Tamaulipas state attorney general’s office by telephone in early December 2018 for further comment remained unanswered.