• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

No sooner had Nancy left their table to buy something inside Starbucks than David, the reformed family man, began asking Eddy — the man kidded for being under the thumb of his wife — what he thought of this Nancy girl. Did Eddy like her? David pulled out his phone to show Eddy a few pictures of his girlfriend, who was Nancy’s friend. David happened to have a few shots of Nancy too, posing in a bikini.

Eddy admitted she was nice-looking. He thought or didn’t think about his wife. He thought or didn’t think about the child his wife was expecting, the lateness of the hour, the coffee in his hand. After Nancy of the little nose bought whatever it was that she wanted from Starbucks and talked briefly in Spanish to the two men at the table, David assured Eddy that Nancy and her friends were okay. Eddy could go out with Nancy if he wanted, and there would be no problema whatsoever.

Unfortunately, Eddy Tostado believed this. He’d been a football quarterback and a Baja racing champion and maybe he could still turn a girl’s head. He believed — and who hasn’t believed a flattering lie? — that when Nancy called David a few seconds later and asked to speak to Eddy, she was very interested in him, so interested that she wanted Eddy to write down her phone number. Eddy took it down. He had that phone number with him the next afternoon, Friday, June 8, when he was sitting with his good friend Carlos — his daughter’s godfather — at the Butcher Shop Steakhouse. He decided to call up Nancy and ask if she wanted to have dinner with him.

Nancy said Sí. But she didn’t want to have dinner at the Butcher Shop. She suggested they take a little trip across the border to the Cantina de los Remedios, where there would be mariachis and margaritas.

Nancy told Eddy she had to pick up her passport before they could go to the cantina. She wanted to change her clothes too, so she told Eddy to meet her at the Starbucks in Sunbowl and follow her to her aunt’s house in Chula Vista. He did this. He drove his black Range Rover to yet another Starbucks and began to follow Nancy’s silver Jeep Liberty with Mexican plates and the Hank Rhon bumper sticker. He followed as she turned right, left, right, left, right in a maze of streets named for promontories: Point La Jolla Drive to Morro Point to West Point to Barrow to Dume. As Eddy Tostado sat in his Oxford leather seats outside a house far shabbier than the one in which his wife and daughter lived, he received a call from some employees at his dealership, Premiere I, who complained they hadn’t eaten lunch yet even though it was now past 6:30, and they needed some money from him. He was going to have to drive over there and give them some cash.

Nancy said that was okay. She’d just run in and change while Eddy took care of those guys. In fact, maybe he should stop at the liquor store for some Buchanan’s Red Seal whiskey. Her aunt wasn’t home, she said. Eddy could come in, and they could have a drink before they went to Tijuana.

So Eddy drove to his dealership, then to Bobar Liquor, where he bought whiskey, cognac, and condoms, and back into the maze again, to 1539 Point Dume Court, which Derek and Freddy could have told him had recently been rented by a couple of Hispanic guys, not anyone’s aunt.

It was now past 7:00 and cloudy, just like the day before. A gloomy twilight hung over the roof and the evergreen pear tree. In the pop-out window where other neighbors with the same house plan displayed porcelain angels, swans, flowers, and small American flags, there hung a bent venetian blind. Eddy noticed that Nancy’s car, which had been parked in the driveway outside the garage door, was now gone. He watched a blue Chevrolet SUV roll slowly into the cul-de-sac, turn a tight circle around the evergreen pear, and leave. The driver of the car was a man wearing a hat. Uncertain, Eddy called Nancy to ask if she was expecting someone, such as a boyfriend. “No,” she said. She wasn’t. “Come on in.”

He walked to the front door of the house where Nancy waited for him, and when she opened the door, he noticed she had not yet changed her clothes.

Before Nancy had even closed the door they tackled him.

At first there were two men. He felt one grabbing his feet and another grabbing his back. Two men dressed in police vests and hats, their faces covered with ski masks, ran toward him. They were carrying rifles. Eddy tried to shake off the two men who were tackling him, and they began to hit him. One of the masked policemen hit Eddy on the bridge of his nose with the back of a rifle. Then they hit him with the rifle in the back and on the legs. He heard and felt the stun gun after that. With each shock delivered to his spine and the soft tissue of his lower back he heard dak, dak, dak, dak. Ten times in less than a minute.

Eddy started to shake, and he fell facedown on the floor. Everything that had been in his bowels and bladder came out. He was nearly unconscious, and he couldn’t move to get away. They went on hitting and kicking him. On the back of his head, he felt a single hard blow. They handcuffed him behind his back. They taped his ankles together. They put a towel over his head. All he could see were the shoes of the men walking around him and the guns lying on the floor — two handguns and one rifle.

In Spanish, they said, “You’re not so tough anymore.”

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


MURPHYJUNK April 7, 2010 @ 12:29 p.m.

time to bring back the death penalty for kidnapping


Visduh April 10, 2010 @ 7 p.m.

Gee, Reader. You put this heavy-duty story on your cover, and there's one comment so far? This story should have evoked dozens of comments. Does anybody care?


David Dodd April 12, 2010 @ 12:36 p.m.

Honestly Visduh, if I don't like a cover story I usually just keep quiet unless there is good topic for debate or other such tasty entertainment in the comments section. Laura McNeal's stories (not just this one) distract me because she dates and puts a timestamp on everything, it jerks her story around to the point where I have to force myself to read it if I want to finish it. That's just me, maybe everyone else is okay with that method, but I think it wrecks the flow and forces the pace.

As for the content, I was also put off by the way the author minimized El Mandilón's ties to the Arellano Cartel, as though there is some chance he wasn't connected. I bet there isn't anyone in Tijuana that believes otherwise, and I have the feeling that the FBI knows better as well. Most of these kidnappings are not based solely on the wealth of the victims, but on a wealthy victim that has a reason to not want the police involved. Luckily for El Mandilón, his wife took a chance and called the authorities, and the kidnappers were pretty stupid and careless.

And no matter what or how they testified, I do not buy into the fact that Eddy told his wife to contact the FBI should anything happen to him. In fact, it would not surprise me that he told her the opposite and she was too scared to comply after he was kidnapped.

Anyway, that's why I didn't comment initially.


SDaniels April 12, 2010 @ 12:51 p.m.

I care, but am not knowledgeable on the topic of kidnappings in Mexico. So I await further commentary from those qualified to weigh in. Visduh, did you have a comment then, or are you in my position?


littleitalygirl April 12, 2010 @ 1:33 p.m.

Seriously, You have to Use " Little Italy" on your cover story? All this crime did not occur in "Little Italy" Why would you even put this on the cover. Your offices are in Little Italy. Whats the deal?


David Dodd April 12, 2010 @ 1:35 p.m.

One more note: I do admire the author's attempt to portray what might be noted as the anatomy of a kidnapping. But this is a really tough thing to pull off when the victim is neck deep in illegal activity himself. Part of the problem is with how Mexican businessmen generally find success. Generally, or perhaps, in a way that is considered almost tolerable here. Not necessarily that ties to a drug cartel is some sort of a ladder to success, but that business in general is not transparent here - there are plenty of questionable investments and alliances going on behind the curtain, so to speak.

However, people do sometimes discover such "abnormalities", much in the same way that the kidnappers discovered who El Mandilón was and that he had plenty to hide from the authorities. It's problematic to write about, in the U.S. because there's a big metal fence in the way of getting at the facts; and especially in Mexico because journalists literally risk their lives in order to attempt to get the necessary proof to substantiate such a story.

And to McNeal, if she reads the comments, you get an A for effort because this was a difficult subject to tackle and it's obvious you did a lot of research. The execution gets a D, and some of that isn't your fault unless you knew who Eddy was before the kidnapping (I don't expect that you did), but my constructive criticism remains - there's no need to date and timestamp your piece until you've pulled me into it. Go back and check your last three stories here, you'll see a trend.


dwingo April 13, 2010 @ 9:38 a.m.

I agree with "littleitalygirl". The Little Italy references at the beginning were not needed, and even misleading. That said, I found the story impossible to put down.

I know that there is a finite amount of space in the Reader for such an article (which may be why another poster felt the cartel ties were "minimized"), but I found myself wanting to know more.

A great read, Laura McNeal! I'd buy the book!


Visduh April 13, 2010 @ 9:25 p.m.

Refried, you confirmed something I'd believed for years. Success in the business world in Mexico has more to do with connections than delivering a product or service that people want. I'd always figured it had to do with one's ties to the PRI, but when PAN got the upper hand there was little evidence that things had changed.

The Mexican business success story has engaged in alliances that are barely tolerable. It is hard for me to imagine a system that is corrupt ever really taking off and spawning real prosperity. BTW, I have never assumed that Mexico was inherently poor, as many others in San Diego have believed. It is the culture of connections and the attendant corruption that keep it poor. And sadly, if San Diego cannot move out of its corrupt political morass, it too will slip into greater poverty and stagnation. We already are seeing that happening on the local political front.

No, SD, I don't know anything about kidnappings in Mexico either. My comment aimed more at the editorial staff that runs lurid cover story headlines for stories that few seem to read, and nearly nobody comments. But with the Tijuana tourist trade diminished almost to the vanishing point due to fear of kidnapping and other kinds of abuse, I'd just think that a few more folks--beyond us members of the hard core--would have a few words to add.


David Dodd April 13, 2010 @ 9:58 p.m.

Very astute, Visduh. My wife is a hard core PANista, and I remind her often that all of those PAN members once belonged to PRI - new boss just like the old boss. The thing I like about Mexico, and it's sort of difficult for a lot of people to wrap their heads around, is that the corruption is obvious, even though business here is everything but transparent. In the U.S., there is a lot of shock and awe whenever corruption rears its ugly head, but here everyone seems to know what's happening even when they can't quite put their finger on any details.

One can, however, make good money here honestly, but the culture is so laid back it's tough to get up the motivation I suppose. For example, up the hill where I used to live there was a guy (with his family) that used to run a taco cart in the mornings, the best beef birria I've ever had. The cart was always packed and he usually sold out in about four hours. His family and him seemed normal in every way, shabby clothes and everything. Turns out the guy made great money (deservedly so), owned four cars (new) and a huge house, and now he's retired. Good for him! (Bad for us, because no one makes birria like that guy did).


jmmymac April 16, 2010 @ 2:24 p.m.

Riveting story! Kudos to Laura. I like the way she has the reader "read between the lines" regarding Eddy, aka El Mandolin and his probable Cartel ties. Arizona now leads the nation with these kidnappings. I just wonder when decapitated corpses start showing up all over SAn Diego like they do in TJ... soon I bet.


tonyb June 13, 2010 @ 10:01 a.m.

pretty nice how you glorify a known member of the afo (arrelano felix organization) in fact it is known eddy is putting the finger on the members of the afo to collect reward monies. biting the same hand that fed him. eddy is a killer, remember the helicopter crash in the baja 1000? and when the afo exumed the body in ensenada? it was eddy whom was racing under an alias, and it was eddy who ordered the body be taken from the hospital. Since when does the reader glorify killers and known drug dealers? too bad his kidnappers didn't finish the job, one less scum bag around dealing cocaine, crystal, and god only knows what else. once the cartel finds out he is the one turning them in, he will get his.


monaghan July 11, 2011 @ 5:18 p.m.

I missed this story the first time around, but in light of Matt Potter's San Diego-Rhode Island drug-running report in July, I now have read every word. My personal take-home message from all this is: never wear a (malfunctioning) wire for the WTF Bureau of Investigation.


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!