Four individuals, including a minor, have been charged in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 50-year-old Hmong American comedian and activist Tou Ger Xiong in Colombia.
About the crime: Xiong, known for addressing racial discrimination through his comedic storytelling, arrived in Medellín on Nov. 29, 2023. He told friends that he was meeting a woman he had been chatting with online. He was found dead 12 days later in the La Corcovado ravine with over a dozen stab wounds and blunt force injuries.
The woman Xiong was talking to online was arrested before the discovery of his body. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Xiong was held captive, tortured, beaten and stripped of valuables by several captors in an apartment in Robledo. Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Bogota warned travelers against Colombian criminals who use dating apps to lure victims in Medellín.
Suspects tracked: The captors demanded thousands of dollars from Xiong’s family and a friend in the U.S., reported CBS. Despite the friend’s payment of $3,140, Xiong was taken to a wooded area, brutally beaten and thrown off a cliff about 260 feet high. Sharit Gisela Mejía Martínez, the identified owner of the PayPal account linked to the payment, attempted to flee her apartment when investigators arrived to question her..
Suspects charged: Colombian officials announced on Thursday that two men and a woman were arrested on Jan. 16 and charged with aggravated kidnapping for extortion and aggravated homicide, reported El Colombiano. The suspects, identified as Sharit Gisela Mejía Martínez, Santiago Bustamante Londoño and Andrés Hincapié Obregón, denied the charges during a hearing. A 17-year-old, who surrendered to the Prosecutor’s office, confessed to participating in the events and was transferred to a special detention center for minors.
About the victim: Xiong, valedictorian at Humboldt High School, linked his ancestry to the Hmong people. Born in Laos in 1973 while his father was working with the CIA, the family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1975 to escape the Laos communist takeover. They eventually emigrated to St. Paul in 1992. He was named a fellow by the Bush Foundation in 2019.
A three-day memorial service for Xiong is scheduled at the end of the month.