‘IT WAS PERFECT’: Winnipeg couple's belated honeymoon went from dream to nightmare in an instant

It was supposed to be a dream honeymoon in a Caribbean paradise for a local couple, but a trip to Mexico turned into a nightmare for a woman who has returned home to Winnipeg and is planning her husband’s funeral.

On Jan. 3, Stacey and Jesse Ropos left Winnipeg for a 10-day Caribbean vacation at the Puerto Aventuras resort in Mexico, a gated community located about 75 kilometres southwest of Cancun.

The trip was planned as a belated honeymoon for the couple that married eight years ago, but never could find time to take a trip between caring for their three kids, and more recently running their own floor installation business.

“Our daughter was only five months old when we got married, so we were like, ‘we’re not going on a honeymoon now with a brand new baby,’” Stacey said.

“And time went on and life got busy, and it just never happened.”

And as Stacey and Jesse prepared to leave for their trip this month, Stacey said they could not have been more excited, and that for the majority of their time in Mexico the trip had turned into everything they had hoped it would be.

“We made so many memories and made so many friends,” she said. “It was perfect.”

But everything changed in the early morning hours of Jan. 13, just about 12 hours before the couple was supposed to return home.

According to Stacey, her husband had stayed at a hotel bar while she returned to their hotel room, and that was the last time she saw Jesse alive.

Just hours after she went to her room, Stacey said she was awoken by staff at the resort and asked to come to the hotel lobby where she saw police tape, and was abruptly told that her husband was dead.

“We went from having this amazing time, and in that one moment it was just a complete flip of the script,” she said.

“In that moment it changed everything for me, for our kids, for our families, for everything.”

A document from a state attorney general's office in Mexico said Jesse died as a result of choking from strangulation, and two men who work at the resort have been arrested.

Although no formal charges had been laid as of Friday afternoon, Stacey said she did expect charges to be laid soon. Both men are considered innocent, and no allegations have been tested in court.

Stacey said she has learned that while at the bar, her husband was involved in an incident that at one point saw him removed, and that eventually led to his choking death, but she said Jesse was not known as someone who would be rowdy or start fights.

“He was not a rowdy guy, and yeah we’d had some drinks, but he was not overly-intoxicated, because if that was the case I would never have left him,” she said.

Stacey said the funeral is scheduled for next Thursday in Winnipeg. She said Jesse was a big fan of colourful clothes and fashion, so she wants people to show up in colours at the funeral next week.

“Jesse was known for his fashion,” she said with a laugh. “He owned every colour of shirt and pants, and it wasn’t strange to see him in pink or in floral patterns, he was just a big colourful guy.

“It will be solemn for sure, but it’s also a celebration of his life, so I’m asking people instead of wearing black to just wear the most colourful thing you have.”

The Puerto Aventuras resort in Mexico has yet to respond to the Sun's requests for comment.

Stacey said while she and others now grieve, she will also seek justice for her husband and hopes to one day find out exactly what happened the morning he died.

“I will not have closure until I find out what happened, because no one can understand how this could have happened to Jesse,” Stacey said.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun