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Jorge went everywhere with Donnie, translating for him by day and sleeping in the same house at night. He even suggested suspects to police, organising a stakeout at a property where he said O'Neil might be held, Donnie recalled. O'Neil had been a popular figure in Mazatlan, donating money to local causes and hosting events at his cafe, so his disappearance was major local news. On 31 October, Donnie's fourth day in town, he and Jorge went to meet the mayor. Carlos Felton told Donnie he'd spoken that morning to the governor, who had made it clear he wanted the case quickly solved.

The next day, when Donnie returned to talk to Flores, the prosecutor barred Jorge from entering the room.

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He then showed Donnie a diagram of communications between the suspected kidnappers. Jorge's name appeared, Donnie recalled. Donnie again dismissed the idea.


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Jorge must have been trying to reach the kidnappers to negotiate O'Neil's release, he thought. The next day Mazatlan was packed with people celebrating the Day of the Dead. To take his mind off his brother's disappearance, Donnie walked among the thousands of partygoers with their faces painted like skulls before ducking into a restaurant to call a kidnapping expert. Police had found O'Neil's body, his youngest brother, Chris, told him, and they had arrested Jorge. Six years after Brian's murder, O'Neil had fallen prey to a similar trap - one allegedly orchestrated by his best friend.

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O'Neil had been lured not to the Punta Pacifico but to another hotel, where he had been beaten so badly that his lungs were punctured, investigators told Donnie. His brother's body was then wrapped in a hotel curtain, stuffed inside a large bag, ferried across town in a taxi and buried in a yard under freshly poured concrete. The FBI agent had warned him not to look at O'Neil's face, so Donnie identified his little brother by the Irish family crest tattooed on his shoulder.

Mexican law does not allow Mexican media to fully identify suspects until they have been convicted. But multiple people close to the situation, including investigators and an attorney for Jorge, confirmed his arrest and those of two others: A fourth suspect, Joel Carrillo Anguiano - a relative of Carlos - has also been charged but remains at large. Jorge had sounded the alarm over O'Neil's disappearance and pressured police to investigate, Soto argued. A confession by Carlos Anguiano implicating Jorge was unreliable, he said.

That accusation cuts deep in a country that has struggled to modernise its outdated, underfunded and, at times, corrupt criminal justice system. Despite a decade-long effort to bolster the rule of law by improving policing and introducing American-style oral court proceedings, more than 93 percent of homicides go unsolved, according to the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexican think tank. On the rare occasion that a homicide is closed, it is often tainted by accusations of torture, as in the case of two Australian surfers killed in Sinaloa a year before O'Neil.

Donnie McGean believes Jorge is guilty. Rather than signs of innocence, he sees Jorge's retching and crying as evidence he knew the robbery had gone too far, and O'Neil was dead. But even he isn't certain. A year after his brother's death, Donnie and his relatives worry that the case will fall apart. The governor who had prioritised O'Neil's case left office last year amid accusations of corruption.

Donnie never received a response. Later he learned Ordaz, who did not respond to requests for comment, owns the Pacific Palace hotel, where O'Neil was killed. On the same day in Washington, mourners packed Blessed Sacrament for a memorial just as emotional as the one held for Brian. Earlier this year, when Chris and Donnie went through their brother's belongings, they found dozens of children's books Brian had given O'Neil, each with a love note written inside.

And in his dressing room in Mazatlan, framed behind glass, they found a collage of photographs of O'Neil and Brian - both of them now gone. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

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