'My life is just full of anguish': Grieving B.C. mom seeks justice after son's death in Mexico

A grieving B.C. mother is seeking justice for her son, who was viciously killed over the summer while living and working in Mexico.

Bonnie Ritchie told CTV News she's been distraught ever since the body of her son, Ryan Howell, was discovered back in June. The 35-year-old had a number of broken bones and other injuries that suggested he had been tortured.

“My life is just full of anguish and despair without my sunshine,” Ritchie said. “He was a light of so many people’s lives.”

Howell moved to Cancun in November 2019 and got a job as a sales manager for a timeshare re-sell company. He was engaged to be married, and was expecting a son of his own later this month.

Ritchie said her son's life hit a rough patch a few years ago, and that she saw his time in Mexico as a rebirth: "Starting a new life, finding the person he adored, and in turn starting a family."

Howell was last seen on the night of June 29. His fiancée had called him that evening to pick her up from a swimming lesson, but Ritchie said her son received another call from a former colleague around the time he was leaving at 9 p.m.

“They had been fired, they were angry,” said Ritchie.

The distraught mom has seen surveillance video showing Howell pacing between buildings, waiting for someone. He was last seen by a security guard at 10:15 p.m., Richie said, and was then picked up in a vehicle.

“Why he waited that long we don’t know, because we knew his wife was waiting,” she told CTV News. “I can only assume that they said they had her, and that’s what provoked him to remain waiting for them.”

That night, Ritchie said she was picked up by Canadian authorities from her Surrey home and interviewed about her son’s life in Mexico.

“They are the rescue team and they were fabulous, they were amazing,” she said. “Unfortunately, by the time they dropped me off, Ryan was found."

Howell’s body was discovered June 30 on the side of a road near a subdivision. Ritchie got on a plane that night to be with her son’s fiancée in Cancun.

They were taken to see the body, which is when Ritchie saw the apparent evidence of torture.

“(Officials) had died his hair black to cover up the blood. They had said he was strangulated,” she said. “His right arm was broken, his right knee was broken.”

She said there were also other injuries too upsetting to explain.

“It was gut-wrenching pain to know what was done," said Ritchie. "And it’s worse now to think that he was crying probably for his mom to help him."

In a statement to CTV News, a Global Affairs spokesperson said officials are aware of a Canadian citizen's recent death in Mexico, and that consular officials are "in contact with local authorities to gather additional information."

"Due to the provisions under the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed," the spokesperson said.

Ritchie said when Howell was younger, their family lived in Mexico. She had worked in tourism and was a single mom to him and his sister.

“He felt that Mexico was his home because he grew up there and he had a lot of friends there,” she said.

Ritchie told CTV News the plan is for Howell’s fiancée to come to Canada sometime in the spring after their son is born. The grandmother-to-be was initially planning to fly down for the birth at her son's request.

The child will be named River George Howell, sharing a middle name with Ritchie's father, which also happens to be the fiancee's father's name.

Ritchie said her son's killer, or killers, robbed the baby of a loving family.

"(Ryan) would have been so such a good, good father," she added.

She has since been trying to get answers from Canadian and Mexican officials, while staying in touch with a detective on the case.

“There’s an ongoing investigation in Mexico,” said Ritchie. “We know the vehicle, we know the licence plate.”

She said detectives have told her that everyone has “gone underground,” and perhaps when they feel safe they’ll reappear.

“A lot of Ryan’s friends that he made down there disappeared. Everybody’s underground because everybody is afraid,” Ritchie told CTV News.

She said the autopsy report was missing some key information she knew about from her time down in Mexico, and Global Affairs is looking into that.

All in all, Ritchie said this nightmare has cost them $18,000. Friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help with Howell’s fiancée and the delivery of her son.