HOUSTON (FOX 26) - It’s been almost 30 years since the grisly murder of University of Texas student from Santa Fe.
Mark Kilroy was spending his spring break along the Texas-Mexico border when he was kidnapped by satanic cult on March 14, 1989.
"Every year during Spring Break, it’s an automatic reminder for us," said Ryan Fenley, Kilroy's friend.
Fenley had planned to spend spring break with Kilroy and three other friends.
"We were all planning to go to South Padre Island and then go party in Mexico," recalled Fenley.
However, in a last minute change of plans, Fenley ended up not joining his friends.
Fenley still remembers the moment he was told Kilroy vanished after leaving a bar in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Kilroy was walking with a friend but the friend stepped away for a few minutes to relieve himself.
"[I thought] that’s weird because Mark would never disappear like that," added Fenley. "And then a month later, the case broke."
Kilroy was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a satanic cult lead by a drug dealer.
The details of his killing as a human sacrifice by the cult are so chilling that they have prompted books and films. The case also led Fenley down a new path.
"I started seeing this was an opportunity to teach others about tourism safety and security," said Fenley. Especially during a time when the U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings to Mexico.
Tamaulipas is currently on the agency's "do not travel" list due to violent crime. The popular resort town, Playa del Carmen, is also under an advisory. Federal employees are banned from traveling to Playa del Carmen due to a security threat.
Shayla Northcutt, a Houston-area travel agent, says she’ll alert her clients about the travel warnings but Mexico is still a popular destination.
"It really hasn’t affected them too much," explained Northcutt. "Has it been a concern? Sure. But it is a concern everywhere."
Northcutt also said travelers should be cautious, stay on their resorts and only do excursions recommended by a trusted travel agent or guide. She also recommended not wearing flashy jewelry and staying in tourist areas.
Also, the best advice she provided is committing to a buddy system and never going anywhere alone.
"Some people want to keep partying and go off -- don’t allow that to happen," warned Northcutt. "Keep together, stick together."
Fenley said he’ll continue to remind students about Kilroy’s story in hopes no one else’s spring break turns into a nightmare.