When a Mexican Resort Dream Getaway Turned into a Nightmare
1. Anniversary Celebrations
Heidi and Corey Sorrem, a couple from Greenfield, Wisconsin, were feeling giddy about celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary at the Mexican Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya resort in September 2016. The Sorrems hadn’t gone on a honeymoon when they got married, so they planned this vacation to be the romantic trip of a lifetime.
The couple checked in at the resort and then decided to take a stroll on the beach. After their stroll, they checked out the resort’s pool area where they were planning to spend a lot of time unwinding and soaking up the sun. It was at this very pool that their troubles began.
2. Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots
The Sorrems approached the swim-up bar to order a drink to celebrate their arrival in paradise. Everything looked so pristine and tranquil, and they thought what better way to take this all in than with a drink. They ordered one shot, took a pool mat, and went to float in the pool.
Another Texan couple arrived at the swim-up bar and offered another round of shots to the Sorrems; they agreed even though they weren’t particularly drinkers. The couple had dinner plans so left the bar, and the Sorrems followed suit to their room to take a shower and get ready for their own dinner plans. Corey told Heidi to take a shower first because she needed to dry her hair and it would take longer, but what happened next wasn’t according to the plan.
3. A Black Out
Corey suddenly jerked up after passing out on the couch. He remembered sitting on the couch, but he had no recollection of falling asleep, and it took him some time to find his bearings and realize that Heidi was taking a shower.
Corey entered the bathroom to check on Heidi only to find her passed out cold on the bathroom floor. He shook her awake and asked her why she wasn’t showering, to which she responded that she would get in the shower. Corey left the bathroom unsuspectingly and passed out again.
4. Heidi Gone
Again, Corey jerked up on the couch and had no idea how long he passed out for. He noticed that the door was open so searched the room, but Heidi was nowhere to be seen and she didn’t seem to have showered either.
Corey yelled Heidi’s name over and over again and asked where she was with no response. He kept yelling after her when suddenly she screamed back “What?” He asked what she was doing, but then everything went silent. Corey suspected that something was very wrong so went to search for his wife.
5. Hanging over the Edge
Corey frantically searched for Heidi around the vicinity of the hotel rooms. He peered down over one of the balconies and saw legs hanging on the ground like something from a horror scene.
He ran downstairs towards the legs and found Heidi completely naked, unconscious, and bleeding from the mouth. She wasn’t responsive so Corey started suspecting the worst. He was left with a myriad of confounding questions: what happened to Heidi and was she dead?
6. When the Staff Aren’t Helpful
Corey had a big problem on his hands: he needed help and urgently, but he couldn’t leave Heidi on the floor from sheer fear of these bizarre circumstances. He continued to yell when a hotel staff member passed by and passed him a towel when she saw all the blood.
While Corey was covering up Heidi’s head, another staff member went to find an onsite doctor who surprisingly did nothing to help Heidi while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. The doctor didn’t check her pulse or her head injury; he just stared at her for more than 20 minutes despite Corey’s plea for medical assistance. Corey feared the worst, so he called Heidi’s family to tell them that he thought she might be dead.
7. Things Get Even More Bizarre
After a mysteriously long 45-minute ride from the resort to the hospital, Corey arrived with Heidi at the hospital. The doctors managed to stabilize her and a while later she woke up with absolutely no recollection of what transpired and what she was doing in the hospital.
As soon as they arrived at the hospital, Corey was bombarded by the staff who demanded he pay $10,000 for Heidi’s medical treatment. They said she needed stitches, but without the money they wouldn’t apply so much as a band aid or provide something as basic as a towel. The staff downright refused to help without the money.
8. Show Me the Money
The doctors ran some tests and a CT scan on Heidi and established that she had a head injury but only needed 11 stitches. They told Corey that he’d need to lay down another $5000 dollars for the tests, and a few minutes later that amount doubled to $10,000.
Corey felt desperate because all he wanted was for Heidi to receive the medical treatment she required, but he had no idea where he was going to fork out this kind of money from. He called family members for help. Then things took a turn for the worst.
9. Get Out!
At about 3 a.m., Heidi woke up to find that Corey had vanished. Before she woke up, security guards approached him and told him to leave the hospital with the excuse that he couldn’t be there anymore. They told him they would get him a taxi when he protested that he was in a foreign country and had nowhere to go and didn’t want to leave his wife’s side.
$50 dollars and a 45-minute taxi ride later, Corey arrived back at the resort and went out of his mind. He paced around looking for surveillance cameras while calling family members. They would provide their credit card number – they just wanted Heidi out of there. Corey taxied back to the hospital only to be told he could only see his wife for 10 minutes and that he needed to pay another $4000 to release her, otherwise eight security guards standing nearby would remove him. Corey refused to leave and organized the money to release Heidi from the hospital even if it was against the doctor’s orders.
10. The Long Way Home
On their way to the airport, Heidi moaned from excruciating pain and had no idea why her legs hurt so much. In the airport bathroom, she found really bad bruising on her inner thighs and feared that while she was unconscious someone must have assaulted her.
When the couple arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Heidi was rushed to the Sinai Medical Center and then transferred over to St. Luke’s Hospital for a series of examinations. There wasn’t time to absorb what had happened; Heidi needed serious medical attention.
11. Emotions Run Wild
Heidi’s mother had to fight back tears when she saw her daughter. “I wasn’t prepared to see her like that,” she said. “She could barely hold her head up.” Her family was concerned and didn’t know what to think when they heard the diagnosis.
The doctors discovered that she had a fractured skull, a concussion, and bruising on her brain. Her bottom teeth had been knocked loose, her elbow was sprained, she couldn’t extend her arm, and the inside of her thighs and buttocks were bruised and raw, almost like a burn. The doctors checked for sexual assault, but there was no sign of that.
12. A Bleak Outlook
The doctors couldn’t believe that she survived the flight home because her head injury suggested that there was a blunt force that resulted in the trauma rather than falling from three floors. Corey agreed that her body was found close to the building, so it didn’t seem like she had gone over the balcony.
“I don’t know how somebody could have had those injuries and not have been raped,” exclaimed Heidi’s sister, Lauralie Benidt. Corey believed that when he called for her, the assailant had the intention to rape her but ran away. Benidt reported that the incident put strain on the family as they tried to make sense of what happened; they found it hard to believe Heidi’s and Corey’s account, so much so, that they suspected him.
13. It Can’t Be!
Benidt admitted that she felt ashamed to secretly wonder whether Corey harmed Heidi. She said, “Your heart is broken, you go to dark places. You desperately want answers.” Her family had never seen Corey drunk or with a temper.
He was a family man who protected Heidi and their kids so it couldn’t be him they concluded. Benidt proclaimed that Corey had always been an amazing father and husband. This didn’t change the other effects it had on Heidi and her family.
14. The Traumatic Effects
A year after the incident in Mexico, Heidi attends weekly physical therapy and treatment for severe headaches. She lost her sense of smell and taste and doesn’t like being alone. Benidt laments that her sister’s personality changed; she used to be the most emotional one out of the three sisters, but Heidi stopped showing her feelings. The doctors said the area of her brain that was bruised was the personality portion of her brain. They admitted that she might not ever fully return to her old self.
There still hasn’t been an investigation into the hotel and the resort staff didn’t summon the police. There have been many other reports of mysterious assaults and injuries after people blacked out in Mexico resorts after having a drink or two. Some accounts even resulted in death under circumstances that would leave you shaken to the core, like in the following hair-raising case.
15. Mysterious Stories
A paper named Journel Sentinel decided to investigate the case. It reported that over 60 travelers from the U.S. and Canada claimed to have experienced similar strange blackouts–men and women, young and old, singles and couples. People have also reported hostile behavior of resort staff, doctors, and local police when help was required.
The investigation uncovered that injuries, sexual assaults, robberies, exorbitant hospital fees, and sometimes even death follow these blackouts. The harm is worsened when filing a lawsuit and realizing that obtaining justice in Mexico is nearly impossible, and that the U.S. Department of State does little or nothing to help them. Hospital records, ambulance receipts, hotel correspondence, and other documents prove that it is very difficult to hold anyone accountable, even for an inexplicable death like that of Abbey Connor’s. But what happened to her?
16. The Case of Abbey Connor
In 2017, the Connor family went on a vacation to Paradiso del Mar resort where Abbey and her brother Austin somehow blacked out in the duration of less than an hour upon arrival at the Mexican resort.
The Connor siblings went to enjoy some drinks at the pool bar with friends to get the holiday started. Like the Sorrems, the trouble started at the pool – a pattern that would become very apparent at these cases. This time, however, one of the siblings wouldn’t be so lucky.
17. A Horrific Scene
The siblings went to the bar and started chatting to another group of college students who were already there. The bartender poured out a line of shots and both Abbey and Austin took one, flipped back their heads, and drank up what they thought would be the taste of paradise.
The Connors went swimming and after a while, they were both found unconscious in the pool by one of the guests, Ginny McGowan who had to call their parents. Abbey’s head was floating face down in the water and the witnesses around the scene couldn’t get any response from her. Austin had a concussion and a lump the size of a golf ball on his head. The situation seemed bleak and they were rushed to a hospital.
18. Disaster Strikes
Abbey was rushed to a hospital in Florida where she was stabilized enough to run tests on her. Her condition remained pretty stable for the next few days, but she still wasn’t responding or waking up unlike her brother who made a quicker recovery.
A few days later, the doctors determined that the college student was brain dead. The Connors filed a complaint with the police and hired investigators to contact the hotel resort staff in order to find out exactly what happened, however, they made more pressing issues. Would they leave Abbey on life support?
19. A Life or Death Decision
After much deliberation with the doctors about Abbey’s prognosis, her family decided to take her off life support because there was no hope for recovery: Abbey would remain brain dead.
The family were interviewed and became very emotional, especially Austin who went through the same ordeal as his sister. Austin broke down in tears when he was asked what he’d tell his sister. He said he’d thank her for everything she had done for him in his life and that he doesn’t know what do to without her. He ended off with: “Just thank you and I love you.” But the story didn’t end there.
The doctors said that the siblings’ alcohol levels were at .25, three times the legal limit, so Austin was asked if maybe they consumed a bit too much alcohol to which he responded: “I’ve thought about it, and I mean, it is a possibility.” He went on to say that he was bewildered at how the others in the group did not see both of them pass out at the exact same time. All these questions would lead to further investigations, but would anyone be held accountable?
The family wants to investigate whether these Mexican resorts serve tainted alcohol – a toxic mix of cheap ingredients, but the hotel denies serving that. All they could give the family was that they make sure to buy closed bottles of alcohol approved according to the standards of the regulated authorities. However, Mexican officials said they’ve seized 1.4 million gallons of tainted alcohol from Mexican bars, clubs, resorts, warehouses, and manufacturers in the past seven years. Clearly, there is something sinister going on. Other families have come forward about blackouts after a few drinks, one of which was Nolan Webster’s with an even more mysterious and frightening account than the others.
21. A Graduation Celebration Gone Awry
It was in early January 2007, and Nolan Webster felt like the world was his oyster after just graduating from college. Webster, 22, who hailed from Massachusetts was accompanied by his girlfriend to the Grand Oasis Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.
He decided to go for a swim in the pool after having a few drinks by the bar. Much like the other cases, Webster lost consciousness and drowned, but the strangest part was that his body, covered with towels, lay on a lounge chair next to the pool for several hours after he drowned at the popular resort. Was he left for dead deliberately?
22. Does Anyone Know CPR?
An emergency nurse named Titto Chickee was vacationing at the resort this same day. He arrived at the pool in the late afternoon and began to scope out the area when he heard lots of yelling and witnesses a scene of pandemonium.
He ran over to make out what was happening when he saw Webster lying at the side of the pool, turning blue while other resort guests surrounded him and shouted “Does anyone know CPR?” Chickee scrambled past them to try gain control of the situation.
23. Titto Chickee to the Rescue
Chickee immediately performed CPR on Webster when suddenly security guards seized him and moved him away from Webster before he could even make sense of what was happening. The security repeatedly shouted that he’s drunk to which Chickee responded that he didn’t care because the poor boy was blue and his breathing had stopped.
Chickee had managed to stabilize Webster’s breathing and some color returned to his face, but when the security guards ripped Chickee away, Webster turned blue again and foamed at the mouth. He yelled at the onsite doctor that Webster needed oxygen, but the doctor didn’t move. He tried to break loose and grab the doctor’s medical kit, but to no avail. Webster had died. Chickee was so angry that he had to fear for his life and that nobody even flinched amidst all the hubbub. “To this day, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” Chickee declared. But it didn’t end there.
24. A Wild Goose Chase
Chickee scoured the Internet for Webster’s parents to inform them about the terrible ordeal he had witnessed. He had no idea how he was going to get hold of them, but he needed them to know about the staff’s hostile behavior and the doctor’s negligence. A crime was committed and something needed to be done.
Two weeks later, Chickee managed to send an email. It was a Friday night and Maureen Webster at home near Boston when she opened the email from him. But her response was definitely not what he expected…
Mrs. Webster was so happy to receive Chickee’s email in which he wrote: “I am extremely distraught and disgusted by these circumstances. Please contact me to discuss further, I cannot rest until you know the truth.” He told her that the staff just stood there while her son died. Webster responded that she was so happy that he found her because she heard so much about him from the other witnesses. She prayed she would find him.
Webster told him that people ay the resort who witnessed the scene contacted them and told them about Chickee. Etienne and Kenneth Marchione of Westford, MA wrote how they were so shocked: “I want you to have an exact account of what we saw because what we saw was greatly upsetting and very wrong.” They said how Chickee was devastated and even crying because he was ripped away from Nolan when he was trying so hard to get help. Webster wanted to know exactly what happened because she heard that Nolan was jumping around and smiling in the pool just minutes prior to his death; no one reported him as drunk.
26. A Fight for Justice
Erin Hambleton had also written to the Websters as she was there that day. She was angry that the staff took no action: “This boy might have had a fighting chance, but they did not give him the opportunity.” Others reported that when Nolan’s girlfriend came down from the couple’s room later, she had no idea of what just happened. She shouted and cried hysterically, so the resort staff picked her up by her arms and legs and carried her elsewhere.
Nancy Winkler, the attorney hired by Maureen Webster, lamented that suing a foreign-based business is extremely difficult. She said that perhaps only vacationers who book through U.S. agencies can hold the companies responsible. Nolan’s mother sued Apple Vacations and Oasis Hotels and all three agreed on settlements for a confidential sum. However, the Websters didn’t stop there for justice.
27. No Solace
Maureen Webster was lucky because she had a lot of witnesses to launch her case, but the settlements didn’t comfort her. She lamented that the lawsuit seemed to cause no long-lasting improvements. “I absolutely do NOT think it did one damn bit of good to hold them accountable or cause them to make any changes,” she wrote in an email. She admitted that she hated making the settlement and it was the hardest decision she had to make in her life.
To create more awareness, Maureen created the website mexicovacationawareness to spread the news about what happened to Nolan and the possible dangers of Mexican resorts. She wanted to create a space for others with the same experiences to share their thoughts about these eerie incidents. That’s how she met Karen Smith.
28. Smith’s Son
Brian Mannuci, Karen Smith’s son, drowned in the same pool under similar circumstances four years later. The police weren’t conducting any investigations of her son’s death, so she didn’t file a lawsuit. The witnesses said very little and the resort staff said there was no video surveillance.
“I naively believed that the Mexican authorities would conduct an investigation,” Smith said in an email. She was sure that the U.S. embassy would help her find out what exactly went down: what he was drinking and who it was with. Mrs. Smith gave up with lots of regret, but there was nothing she could do because there was no police report, no witnesses, and he didn’t fly through an agency. This wasn’t the first or last time: 92% of crimes go unreported and uninvestigated in Mexico, and the country suffers from a plague of impunity, like in Rick Autrey’s case.
29. The Case of Rick Autrey
Rick Autrey, a barber from Texas, went on a courtesy trip with a friend who won the trip through work in May 2017. They went for a drink to the Hard Rock Café in Cancun and when they returned to the resort pool they had a few rum and cokes.
His friend went back to the room, and Autrey said he would meet him there in a few minutes. A few minutes came and went, and there was no sign of Autrey. His friend went back downstairs to see what was happening when he saw something was off.
30. Holding on For Dear Life
Autrey blacked out and floated face down in the pool. He was pulled from the pool without a pulse and blue while a group of onlookers stood by. At first the people thought he was playing a prank, but when Autrey didn’t respond, they realized he might be dead.
Someone pulled him up on the bar to give him CPR until an ambulance came and rushed him to hospital, and then several hours later to another one in Cancun, where similar circumstances went down regarding money and medical care, like in the Heidi Sorrem case. His friend had to make very difficult decisions, and fast. Both hospitals were part of a chain of hospitals called Hospiten that contracts with resorts in Mexico.
31. No Shame
Autrey’s friend was forced to put $10,000 on his credit card to ensure medical care. He was fed the same excuses about procedures costing lots of money and that without the cash, the doctors would do absolutely nothing to help.
When his wife flew down from Texas the next day, the hospital charged her tens of thousands of dollar so that the bill reached a hefty $50,000. Every time she passed the front desk, they handed her another invoice. He was in a coma for two days and suddenly opened his eyes.
32. The Escape
The family hired a medevac jet to fly him out of Mexico. He arrived with a wound on his foot, so doctors said it would take a while before he could stand on it. Luckily for them, insurance covered about $10,000 of the $50,000 despite the fact that it’s hardly anything.
Like others, Autrey longs for justice, but there was no police investigation and the hotel would not provide the family with footage from the surveillance cameras. Autrey realizes that all the stories about these Mexican reports are scarily similar, but they can’t prove that it’s tainted alcohol. He doesn’t think rum and coke could have incapacitated him to such a degree. Then there’s a story of another man from Boston that took on a very different turn to the previous accounts.
33. A “Five Diamond Award” Resort?
The Grand Vales Riviera Maya resort is included on the AAA’s exclusive “Five Diamond Award” list and is the member of The Leading Hotels of the World, but this didn’t stop some freakishly weird incident from occurring at this “top” hotel.
An unnamed man from Boston booked into a nearby resort, but sought out the Grand Velas for its world-famous spa. He had a Mimosa at lunch and then he booked an 80-minute massage and was assigned to a massage therapist, Diego. Diego told him to breathe in what he thought was aromatherapy oils, but soon after breathing it in, he passed out cold.
34. Sexual Assault
The man had fallen into a deep sleep, but when he woke up he found himself being sexually assaulted by Diego. When he tried to get up and push him off, he felt too weak and Diego pushed him back down.
When it was over, the man complained to the hotel manager and filed a complaint at the police station before going to the hospital. He wanted to rule out any suspicions he had about being drugged.
35. Fight for What’s Right
The man from Boston remained in Mexico for an extra six days in order to ensure paperwork, much of which had to be filed in person, and other procedures of the Mexican judicial system were correctly followed.
Once he returned home, he wrote letters to the hotel and to the executives of The Leading Hotels of the World, the AAA, and American Express because it included the hotel in its Fine Hotels & Resorts program. He even sought help from an attorney who handled many assault cases against Catholic priests in Boston. To date, the Mexican authorities have still not pursued any criminal charges and everyone with a stake in the issue seemed to side with the resort. It’s how the resort responded that made this whole case even more bizarre.
36. A Bizarre Response
Ted Teng, executive director of The Leading Hotels of the World replied to the man’s letters saying he was glad the man shared his story because it is a serious crime that left him speechless. However, he felt he needed to give the employee and the hotel the benefit of the doubt even though he didn’t deny any of the man’s claims of the alleged crime.
The Grand Velas defended Diego as its top performing therapist and said that he worked at the spa for a year with no previous complaints. The response also said that the man didn’t act in a manner consistent with someone being raped. The most bizarre part is that the resort moved the therapist to a beach side station so that his massages would be given in public. Is this chain of crazy cases the work of some crime syndicate? This next case of a group of old women proves how low the criminals are willing to go.
37. Birthday Celebrations
A group of eight women, all celebrating their 60th birthdays, checked into the same resort that the Sorrems stayed at, about seven weeks before the couple arrived there. Pat Bueltmann, a travel agent from St. Louis, Missouri, was among the group.
The women arrived at the resort when one of Bueltmann’s lifelong friends ordered a margarita from the pool bar. She said it was very strong, and when the bartender asked if she wanted another one, she declined the offer and asked for some ice to help dilute the drink, or the little bit that remained of it.
38. Strange Behavior
The woman doesn’t remember the rest of that day, but Bueltmann does; she said her friend began acting so strange – not in a drunk way, but rather that she lost her bearings and couldn’t find her way to the bathroom or perform common tasks.
When they went to eat at the buffet, the friend returned to the table with an empty plate, held it out to Bueltmann, and looked at her quietly saying “I don’t know what to do.” Bueltmann asked her what she meant and recalls how her friend placed incompatible foods on the plate and covered them with nacho cheese sauce. Bueltmann said, “It was so odd,” because her friend wasn’t slurring her words. Then the behavior became stranger.
39. A Breakdown
Later that day, the friend sat down outside the hotel room after emptying out her purse on the floor in search of her room key. She then sat with her head in her hands and cried. The group were concerned and canceled the excursion plans. The woman wasn’t taking any prescription drugs, so they feared someone slipped something in her drink, but it seemed far-fetched.
As a travel agent, Bueltmann doesn’t want to scare anyone, but she feels that it’s so important to share the story and not sweep anything under the carpet. She’s even reluctant to recommend any trips to Mexico now.
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