A Dahlonega native who was shot and killed while traveling in Mexico last week met his local family members for the first time last year.
Jonathon William Torres Cazares, 18, was born in Dahlonega in 1991, and his parents moved to Texas before he was a year old.
Visiting family in Mexico, Torres was one of two people killed after the bus he was riding in was hijacked Sept. 30.
"When I first saw him, I cried," said Janice Lopez, Torres' aunt who lives in Gainesville. "Next month, he would be 19 and was going to come back to visit."
Torres' mother, Lopez's sister Sheree Torres, moved back to Dahlonega, but Jonathon stayed with his father and another aunt in Mexico. When he turned 18, Torres' father told him to travel to Dahlonega to meet his aunt Janice, mom and grandmother. His brother Jorge attends Lumpkin County High School.
Torres, a freshman pursuing an associate of arts degree at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, was traveling from Texas to visit his family in Matamoros, Mexico, when he was killed.
"He got on a bus to visit his sister, who was having a birthday party five hours away and was on the bus for two hours when people stopped the bus, checked his ID, took his money and shot him in the back of the head," said Lopez, who heard the news from Torres' mother. "The people who did it are a drug-related group. They've been killing U.S. citizens, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, anyone not from Mexico."
Torres planned to pursue a medical degree and care for sick relatives.
"He was going to take care of them because they're over in Mexico and they're poor. That was his goal," Lopez said. "He had a girlfriend since 2008. I talked to her yesterday, and she's really sad, but we all say that God will take care of this. We have to keep our heads up."
Torres' girlfriend, Adriana Cortez Tinoco, took over his Facebook page last week. She wrote in Spanish on Friday that she will leave the page open one more day for people to comment and then will take it down to preserve his memory.
As family members move forward, Lopez wants tourists to take extra caution.
"Do not go to Mexico. I've been twice, and it's dangerous," she said. "The killing over there is getting worse, and when people would tell me about it, I would ignore it. When I saw it on TV, I would just change the channel."
The danger seems far away, she said.
"I didn't think it was that close to the border, and I never realized it would affect my family," Lopez said.
"My nephew was just right there, and I never thought it would be him. I hope officials can find these people and identify who they are."