April 10, 2008
Israeli girl’s disappearance marks 1-year anniversary
Where is Dana Rishby?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"We took a taxi together to the beach. The Swiss found a cabin, and I accepted the American's offer to share his. His name is Mati, he is from Santa Monica, 32 years old. He has lived here for two months, working in real estate," she wrote in Hebrew on March 30. "I don't know what his intentions are, but I have none with him. At least not until he shaves, takes a bath and gets a haircut. He looks friendly, but he stinks."
Authorities say Dana and Mati were seen later that night at the beach party. But then no one heard of Dana again until the American who had offered her shelter called the Rishpys in New York on April 7 to say he had Dana's knapsack.
Mati's call did not alarm the Rishpys, who believed their daughter had gone on a tour of nearby ruins and would soon return. They advised him to leave the knapsack at the receptionist's desk and thanked him for the courtesy.
Dana's parents still were not worried when eight days later, Dania signed into her daughter's e-mail account and noticed unopened messages dating back to the end of March. They were familiar with the disconnected nature of traveling. About a month before, the parents had taken a hike in Argentina that left them incommunicado for two weeks.
But at this point, Dror Rishpy decided to e-mail Mati, whose address was found in Dana's inbox, to see if he had heard from her. The exchange offered few clues, except that Dana had not been staying in Cancun as they understood but had left the resort haven after two days for a small cabana at Mar Caribe in Tulum.
On April 25, after having still not heard from Dana and finally starting to fear the worst, Rishpy contacted the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City. The next day, Erez and about 100 Israeli volunteers traveled to Tulum to search for Dana. A group of volunteers also went looking for Mati, whom they hoped had more information about Dana's latest whereabouts.
What they found was an empty apartment, the previous day's newspaper on a table, unmelted ice sitting in a container and a bicycle. According to Silvia Cherem, who wrote a six-part series on Dana's disappearance for La Reforma, Mexico City's largest newspaper, police also found a California driver's license on the floor. It belonged to Matthew Ryan Walshin, born Dec. 22, 1968. He was 38, not 32, and a subsequent search revealed he had boarded a plane from Cancun to San Francisco, via Phoenix, that morning, Erez said.
"He was scared. He decided to escape because he knows something," Erez believes. "He might not be the murderer, but he knows something we don't know."
Walshin, who has been characterized as a hippie drifter constantly on the move since returning to the United States, could not be reached for comment. His mother, Marlene, offered last week to pass a reporter's number onto her son, whom she said was in Los Angeles temporarily. He did not respond.
"He's a little bit wary about who is asking the questions," his mother said from her home in Henderson, Nev. "All of the news has just been slanted one way. It's not been good."
Indeed Cherem, whose articles for La Reforma accused authorities in Quintana Roo of sweeping aside the Rishpy case to save the tourism industry their economy depends on, not only identified Walshin as the prime suspect or an important witness but hypothesized about how he might have killed Dana and how he would have disposed of the body.
In September, Walshin was arrested in El Cerrito, near Berkeley, for getting into a fight with a private investigator hired by the Rishpy family to tail him. Cherem reported that during the scuffle, Walshin allegedly screamed, "You are never going to find her!"
Dana's mother, however, prays that is not true.
"We still hope that we will find her in any condition. We know that if we find her alive, she will come home and be well."
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