In an incident that sounds as if it was taken out of a movie script, beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez was gunned down Saturday in a shootout between members of a drug cartel and military patrolmen.
According to The Associated Press, Gamez was traveling with the former group when guns were drawn. An assault rifle was discovered near her body.
"She was with the gang of criminals, but we cannot say whether she participated in the shootout," says state prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera. "That's what we're going to have to investigate."
Gamez was voted the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in February. She then lost a subsequent pageant that would have put her on track to compete for Mexico in Miss Universe.
Higuera says Gamez was a passenger in one of the vehicles that engaged soldiers in an extended chase and bullet battle on Saturday. The incident took place near her hometown of Guamuchil and two other members of the gang were killed, while four were detained following the hours-long standoff.
It's actually not uncommon for beauty pageant contestants in Mexico to get involved with drug cartels. The 2011 movie Miss Bala focused on this association and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
"They are disposable objects, the lowest link in the chain of criminal organizations, the young men recruited as gunmen and the pretty young women who are tossed away in two or three years, or are turned into police or killed," says Javier Valdez, the author of a 2009 book on the same subject.