Utah couple shot and killed in Mexico

A couple from Utah were shot and killed early Thursday morning in Mexico, according to media reports.

Reforma, a news outlet based in Mexico City, reported the couple were traveling through the state of Guerrero, from the port of Acapulco to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, a beach resort town. About 4 a.m., near the city of Petatlán, the couple were “intercepted by a group of armed men” and shot. The men “stripped them” of their car, the story said. The couple have been identified as Paul D. Nielsen, 52, and Janeth Vázquez, 43, who reportedly is originally from Puebla, Mexico. Vazquez’ 12-year-old son was traveling with them and was also shot but did not die, according to Reforma.

On Friday, family members of Nielsen created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. Rose Nielsen Naylor, who said Paul Nielsen was her brother, wrote: “My brother Paul was killed in Mexico today 7/18/19. We are trying to raise enough money to help his family in anyway they need. It is going to be a huge ordeal bringing his body back to the US and any amount will help. This is all the information we have at this time, I will update when we know more.”

Vilate Ssempala, Nielsen’s younger sister, told The Tribune on Saturday that Nielsen was traveling with Vazquez and her 12-year-old son. They encountered a roadblock put up by a local gang to extort travelers.

Ssempala said news articles and the mortuary handling her brother’s body have described execution-style gunshots to the faces. She isn’t aware of anyone pursuing the killers. Ssempala said her family has been working with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to have Nielsen’s body returned.

Nielsen was a Salt Lake County native who most recently had been living in the Riverton or South Jordan area. Nielsen co-owned a water softener company with one of his brothers.

Growing up, Nielsen was known as “Perfect Paul,” Ssempala said, because he followed rules — he didn’t make duplicates of materials that were copyrighted; he didn’t drive faster than the speed limit.

“He was very deliberate in everything that he did and very organized,” Ssempala said.