Dana Rishpy (Missing Person)

Date:
March 31, 2007 (Saturday)

Location:
Mezzanine Hotel, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Situation:
Missing

Dana Rishpy

Nickname: Unknown
Alternative Name: First Name: Danna | Last Name: Firemann (used on her blog though URL is Rishpy).

Disappearance

Missing from: Mezzanine Hotel, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Date Missing: March 31, 2007 (Saturday)
Taken By: Unknown

Circumstances:

Dana

Dana was born into a wealthy family based primarily in Haifa, Israel. Her parents (Dania and Dror Rishpy) had four children, of which Dana was the youngest by ten years. The Rishpy’s were highly multi-cultural, perhaps owing to her mother’s past as a travel agent or her father’s previous job as a pilot with the airline El-Al and as the personal pilot for Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Her parents were seasoned travelers themselves and spent early 2007 hiking and backpacking in South America.

Dana Rishpy and her family including the parents two sisters and a brother
Dana and her Family

Dana herself was a dual German-Israeli citizen, familiar with travel and confident in being abroad having visited several countries over her lifetime, some as a solo traveler. She was comfortable being in the spotlight – striking since childhood for her eyes and lovely hair. As a child she modeled for a popular Israeli brand of fruit, with her image in many stores across the country.  

An active young woman, many of Dana’s photos showcase travels with family and friends or participation in athletic or out-door activities.

According to her blog, Dana was also interested in animation and the arts, a hobby she was carrying with her into her career interests.

Dana's hobbies and dreams as shown on her blog.

As required of Israeli citizens, Dana had completed her military service, and was now considering where she wanted her life to go. She spent several years dubbing Japanese cartoons into Hebrew for Israeli television. Based on the graphics from her blog, some of the characters she dubbed included:

  • Nurse Joy (Pokémon)
  • Bu-Ling Huang (Tokyo Mew Mew)
  • Sakura Kinomoto (Cardcaptor Sakura)
  • Lilly (Shaman King)
  • Tom & Jerry
Image show the anime characters Dana voiced

She was even visiting universities in California to consider graduate courses in computer animation.

She hoped to either get into an animation career, but was equally comfortable being live on film. She and a friend produced a homemade MV still available on Youtube with a song dedicated to ‘all the girls out there who are sick and tired of being nice to boys who just can’t take a hint’. She also shared personal travel videos on other sites with her last video being March 21 (ten days before she disappeared) of her skiing in Lake Tahoe (Link).

Dana was a creative and confident young woman, close to family and friends — full of potential and optimism for the future.


*The events described below have been pieced together from a combination of news publications and the FBI database. The story was not covered by major western media and what exists often conflicts one source to another. If someone personally familiar with the details of the case believe we should issue a correction, we will immediately do so.

Events Leading Up to the Disappearance

Before making any decisions about the future, Dana decided to vacation in Cancun, a region her parents once visited decades earlier. She originally intended to meet up with her parents in Patagonia in March, but tickets were difficult to get that late and she headed to Mexico instead (Link). The trip would last at least a couple of weeks, and she spent her first few days like all adventurous young adults – touring the sites, making new friends amongst the tourists, and hanging out of an evening.

Based on several sources (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3), Dana arrived in Cancun sometime around March 26-27, ready to explore from the start. After settling in, she emailed her parents on March 28 describing the friendly people she’d met and expressed her plan to spend the next few weeks touring the local sites, starting with a boating trip to Isla Mujeres.

*Perelman in The Forward says she arrived earlier and emailed them on March 26. This does not seem to be significant, but it does conflict.

Mezzanine Hotel to Cancun trip

This was the last time her family would ever hear from Dana; she vanished shortly afterwards.


Missing in Tulum

Dana’s diary (written in Hebrew and thus seemingly reliable) is the last confirmed insight into her movements in Mexico. She wrote on March 30 she had made it back from the island and was visiting Tulum (a city about one hour outside of Cancun). She had met some tourists on the bus from Isla Mujeres (two Swiss and an American) who warned her the area was busy and housing may be hard to find. The American (a man called ‘Mati’ who lived in Tulum) offered to share his cabaña with her while showing her around.

*Some articles say she moved to Tulum on March 31, but this appears to be incorrect (Link – see comments)

Google Earth view of the Mezzanine Hotel Area

Dana was excited to have met someone familiar with the area and looked forward to exploring the area. Tulum offers many cultural experiences including Mayan Ruins, swimming in the Cenotes (an underground river system), and ocean activities (snorkeling). This in addition to the weekly party at the Mezzanine Hotel near where Mati was apparently staying, made it attractive place for Dana away from the ‘big city’ of Cancun itself for a few days.

Logo of Mezzanine hotel showing webpage menu overtop an island view

On the other hand, she did note concerns about Mati’s intentions towards her, writing that she was not interested in a romantic/sexual relationship with him although she did accept his offer of sharing the cabaña.

“I do not know his intentions but I don’t want anything to do with him, at least until he takes a bath and cuts his hair. He seems friendly . . . . What a good fortune to meet a guy like Mati, who knows this place”

Dana Rishpy (victim) (Link)


It is clear that the same night as her journal entry (Friday, March 30), Dana headed out to party; but how the evening played out is not well established. The Jerusalem Post says Dana left her backpack with Mati and headed out to a nightclub nearby. According to their report, there is photo and video evidence of Dana at the club that evening, drinking and listening to a drum performance. Forward says instead it was a party arranged every Friday night on the beach of the Mezzanine Hotel itself.

In either case, she was last confirmed to have been seen around 1:30am on March 31 getting ready to leave the party in the company of a young male of Caucasian / North American appearance who possibly ‘had an apartment in the area’ (Link).

*Again the stories offered by the media are unclear. Jerusalem Post suggests she left her bag with Mati and went to the party independently, leaving with a male described only generally as noted above. Forward says several witnesses reported that she actually left the party with Mati (he might have met up with her again at the party). Mati himself and an anonymous commenter on Your Free Press state Dana was alive the next morning and left to visit some ruins with two French Canadians instead. It is unfortunately feasible for one Caucasian man in Cancun to mix into others for witnesses looking back on a distant night filled with drinks and fun. Especially if it is true the party was held every week and people might have mixed up the nights. She wasn’t looking for a relationship with Mati, so it’s entirely possible she found a more attractive guy to hang out with.

The American FBI are asking the public to help them identify a male who was seen the night of the party in the company of Dana. According to the FBI, the man is not a suspect but it is hoped he may have insight into Dana’s behavior / actions that night.

They describe him as a Caucasian male with a thin build. He seems to be either Australian or North American (US / Canada).

Two images of a male, caucasian, drinking from a bottle. Wearing jeans and a green t-shirt with a white color.

Rumors of what happened that night abound:

  • Dana ran away with Mati to Honduras (witnesses said they saw them) (Link) ➜ A hotel manager in Belize claimed they hosted Dana and a male (assumed to be Mati) before they crossed into Honduras.
    • Later proven unreasonable given that Mati was clearly visible in Tulum according to witnesses in the three weeks after her disappearance and then known to be in the United States afterwards.
    • But this was what the State Judicial Police concluded when they initially dismissed the initial investigation.
  • Another anonymous commenter on Your Free Press discusses a rumor that Dana was somehow given Ecstacy (or another illicit drug) at the Mezzanine Hotel / Night Club where they initially partied. She began to overdose, went into convulsions, and was taken (by persons unknown) to Playa Esperanza (another hotel a short walk away). What happened after that is not discussed.
    • In March 2008, Mexican police arrested and questioned Hungarian tourist Zsolt Fejer on suspicion of drug trafficking and possible connections with Dana’s Disappearance:
      • According to Your Free Press, Fejer allegedly told private investigators in 2007 he sold Ecstacy pills to Mati (Walshin) the night of the party. Furthermore, Fejer was supposedly seen in Dana’s company that night, and told the investigators he picked up Mati and approximately eight others (along with a long-hared girl) that night for a trip to Playa Esperanza.
      • As with many claims on YFP, this was later refuted by a commenter who claimed to be Fejer himself. The commenter claimed Fejer was innocent of the charged (both drugs & in relation to Dana’s case) and that it was a set up by police. It has not been verified whether this was true but nothing seems to have come from his questioning.
    • In 2011, Mexican police reportedly arrested Jorge Ruiz, a caretaker for Playa Esperanza. A witness arrested by police on a rape charge alleged Ruiz had picked Dana, Mati, and eight others up in a van and taken them to a separate place known as ‘Maalix’. There the witness claimed Dana was given illicit drugs and overdosed. Ruiz was questioned for a few days and then released, still protesting his innocence in the matter. He (like Fejer) claimed police were setting him up (Link).
      • Maalix would have been in the opposite direction compared to Playa Esperanza, so this conflicts with the rumor above.
      • This conflicts with the theory Fejer picked them up.
      • The witness in Ruiz’s case (a homeless person) supposedly then led them to remains suspected to be Dana’s buried in Tulum. Media suggested it might have been the work of organ traffickers, and the body was sent for DNA testing.
      • Nothing appears to have come from any of this as Dana is still listed as missing and no sentencing was given her disappearance or possible murder. (Link)
    • It seems highly strange that police accused two separate men of virtually the same story two years apart (after one got out of jail having been declared innocent, the other one is suddenly accused of the same thing by a mysterious witness) . . . . it does lend credence to the suggestion that the men were being falsely accused.
Trip from Mezzanine Hotel to Playa del Carmen
Maalix is the opposite direction from Playa Esperanza
  • Another anonymous commenter on Your Free Press states that Dana left the Mezzanine Hotel approximately an hour before the party finished with the French Canadians (this is the same commenter mentioned previously). Mati, a woman with him (not Dana), and others went together without Dana to Playa Esperanza where they slept after the party was over. Dana was then seen at Mar Caribe (a street on the outskirts of Cancun) later that evening.
    • This theory is most believable if one assumes that Dana did in fact reject Mati’s offer to share the cabaña, but as late as it was it seems unlikely she would have headed back the 2 hour drive to Cancun alone that night. She had the money to get herself a room at the Mezzanine or Playa Esperanza (equally nice places). She might have simply forgotten her backpack at Mati’s home (perhaps because of the drinking), but she would have had difficulty getting a hotel in Cancun without her passport. Plus, this does not seem to align with Mati’s later statements about seeing her March 31 after the party.
    • In this case Fejer or Ruiz or whoever picked people up in the van may have mistaken Dana for the other woman in Mati’s company with long hair.
  • Mati later told Dana’s parents himself that he say Dana at around 11:30am on March 31, when she said she planned to head to the Mayan ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Tulum), potentially with some French Canadians. Two sources (Link 1, Link 2) says she told him she would return in approximately an hour and a half (around 1:00pm – 13:00). When she did not arrive, he claimed to have left a note telling her to meet him at a camping area they both knew from the previous day. But she never found him at either place.
    • If true, that would mean the previous rumors about her at the party were unrelated to her disappearance and the whole Ruiz – Fejer situation was irrelevant.
Dana Rishpy Missing Person photo from the early days of the search
Your Free Press – the original missing persons photo lists her last sighting as March 31 at 11:30am.

The only certain thing about Dana’s disappearance appears to be that she went to a party in the company of a young Caucasian male, and there has been no confirmed sighting of her since 1:30am the following morning (March 31).


The Following Days

April 7 (8 days after the party and 11 days after her last contact with them), Dana’s parents received a telephone call at their Manhattan apartment (the number was listed in her diary). Upon answering, Dania (Dana’s mother) found herself speaking with Mati. He asked if they knew where Dana was as he still had her backpack from the night of the party and wanted to return it to her. He said he had not seen her and did not have a way to contact her about the bag.

Dania thanked him and asked Mati to leave the bag at the lobby of his residence with a note for Dana. After hanging up, Dana’s parents attempted to contact her about picking up her bag from the hotel. When the family failed to get a response from her email, they eventually broke into the account on April 15 to see what was going on. It was then that they learned Dana had not read her messages nor used the account since approximately two weeks previously. They did see an email from Mati dated April 7 (the same day he called) stating that he was leaving her bag at the lobby per the parents’ request if she wanted to get it.

The Rishpy’s were concerned by this point and contacted Mati again asking for additional information. He responded that he last saw Dana on Saturday, March 31 when she said she was planning to go on the backpacking trip to the Mayan ruins as previously mentioned above. . . but that he had not heard from her since (Link).

Many believe the strongest evidence in Mati’s favor is that he is the one who brought attention to the fact that Dana was missing, he could have destroyed the backpack and disappeared without going to all the effort of reaching out to her parents, and he did seem genuinely cooperative at the beginning. But at the same time, there are some questions about the backpack issue.

*11 days was a long time to wait for Dana to return to claim the backpack, especially as it held her money, identification, both her Israeli & German passports, her clothes, almost $1000 in Traveler’s Checks, plane tickets, etc. If he had her email address, why wait so long to try making contact? If he had her email address, why not email her first before going to her parents?

One Source (Link) says Mati first emailed Dana on April 4, and her parents (already concerned) read that email and then contacted him rather than him calling them. This is the only source that says so.

All said, most overlook the fact that her parents themselves then took more than two weeks to contact police. While many suggest Mati is suspicious for waiting so long to reach out; her parents took even longer and would have known her habits better. Clearly there was something about Dana’s habits that neither Mati nor her parents were initially concerned.

April 21 was the last contact between the Rishpy’s and Mati.

Timeline of the disappearance of Dana Rishpy

The Search

On April 23, the Rishpy’s contacted the Mexican Police who located Dana’s backpack with Lobby staff the following day. It was confirmed to have been there since Mati said he left it with them.

Although an initial search was launched, the police have been accused of appearing overly-invested in wrapping the case up quickly in the interest of protecting their tourist reputation. The police were relatively quick to conclude Dana and Mati had fled to Honduras despite apparently neither of them having any motive in leaving, Dana’s backpack still remaining at the hotel, Mati was seen in Tulum after the disappearance, and neither of them having previous connections with Honduras.

To supplement what they felt were minimal efforts by police, the Rishpy’s themselves financed and managed much of the investigation – interviewing persons of interest, collecting evidence, and filing DNA and Lab Test requests from their own pockets. They even reached out to private volunteer search teams from Israel who quickly arrived to help.

Matthew Walshin

It was through the search team’s efforts that on April 26, ‘Mati’ was formally identified as Matthew Walshin from California, USA – son of Perry Walshin – one of the lawyers that defended Charles Manson in the murder of Sharon Tate.

*Several articles apparently incorrectly identified him as Wilson or Walshen initially (Link – see comments).

Walshin had rented an apartment from a close friend, ‘Flor’, after Dana disappeared and moved there shortly after Dana vanished (it was the move from the hotel to the apartment that caused him to contact the Rishpys’ about Dana’s bag). According to anonymous commenters on Your Free Press, Walshin made no effort to hide nor behaved unusually in the weeks after Dana disappeared. Both his apartment address and car were easily locatable by police.

*Flor was later brought in for questioning in relation to the case, but nothing came from it (Link).

According to the investigators, Walshin suddenly abandoned the city on April 26, flying back to the US rapidly (leaving behind his driver’s license). Walshin may have had reason to get out of dodge given how quickly focus centered on him as a key person of interest in the case.

Your Free Press suggested in 2007 that his car was identified abandoned in the area with a broken window and blood in the vehicle; however an anonymous commenter on the same page rebutted the facts stating Walshin had not purchased the vehicle until more than three weeks after Dana went missing, that it was in front of his home and not abandoned, and that police broke the window themselves. The blood was not conclusively proven to be human (the area included butcher shops and some say it might have been tracked in).

Your Free Press also states that Walshin had a criminal background in Oregon from the 1990s based on sexual assault charges for which he was sentenced to 6 months in prison with five years probation. However Forward states the charge was for drugging and sexually assaulting a young woman in California instead. Neither claim has been verified by official legal authorities based on our research.

*Much of what was published about this case online seemed to end up in a he said / he said versus those who thought Walshin was clearly suspicious and were perhaps over-eager to share unverified details and anonymous posters who defended him without any clear evidence. Both gave somewhat biased spins on facts making it unclear how to differentiate fact from conjecture. It unfortunately muddied the case up quite a bit.

“The basic problem on this case is we are talking about a crime against an Israeli citizen in another country, Mexico, with the main suspect being an American. . . . It is a triangle of countries.”

Itzhak Erez (Israeli consul in Mexico City) (Link)

When police failed to turn up any answers to Dana’s disappearance, her family hired a private investigator to look into the case. The investigator met with Walshin and the two ended up fighting and Walshin spent the night in jail, but was released the next day.

Walshin has never been formally named a suspect in the case.


The Search Continues

Eventually in December 2007 due to pressure from media and the Israeli government, Mexican federal authorities opened a new investigation into the case. Israel also launched its own investigation, requesting assistance from the Mexican and American authorities.

Nothing seems to have come from the investigations in particular, and Dana has not yet been found nor has anyone been charged in her disappearance.

“It’s an especially difficult case because there is no evidence, no body and, as a result, no crime according to Mexican law.”

 Itzhak Erez (consul at Israeli Embassy) (Link)

Since Dana disappeared, her family has been faced with the difficult task of sorting through the various leads and dealing with many false rumors.

For example, in 2009, her family followed a possible lead to Houston, Texas (Link). According to witnesses, a family from Houston was visiting the area where Dana vanished in April of 2007. They reported finding a young woman unconscious and seemingly drugged along the road in Playa del Carmin, approximately one hour from the Mezzanine Hotel.

Trip from Mezzanine Hotel to Playa del Carmen

According to the report, the tourist family included the parents, two older daughters, and two sons. They had arrived on a cruise ship and left shortly afterwards. It is possible they are members of the LDS (Church of Latter-Day Saints), but it is not certain. The youngest child (a boy) may have Down Syndrome, but it is not certain.

The family apparently took the girl to a nearby restaurant and attempted to give her a drink. Mexican police reportedly arrived but then gave the girl into the custody of a male who said he was her fiancé / boyfriend.

*A later article says the Mormon family (or at least the parents) may have been in Utah instead of Houston on a mission in 2009.

It is not clear whether the Rishpy’s ever identified the family.

*In our personal opinion (which should be taken with a large grain of salt), it seems like this report was perhaps the most concerning thing in the whole case. It suggests Dana may have been taken by someone well-connected (possibly involved in drugs & sex trafficking – the cartels are strong in the area) but somehow escaped until police delivered her back to her kidnapper. If true, it makes what was seemingly negligence (the conclusion she was in Honduras, the identical accusations against the two men, etc.) now seem more like a cover-up. It also is all too feasible a possibility.


“My husband is not [an] optimist, but I still am. . . I still see her coming through the door one day.”

Dania Rishpy (mother) (Link)

Key Descriptors

  • Date of Birth: May 26, 1982
  • Age at Disappearance: 24
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian
  • Nationality: Israel & Germany
  • Gender at Birth: Female
  • Hair: Brunette (Long, Wavy)
  • Eye Color: Blue – Green
    • Interpol lists them as Brown
    • FBI lists them as Blue
    • Most seem to go Blue-Green
  • Height: 5’7″ (170 cm)
  • Weight: 120 lbs (54.4 kg)

Distinguishing Marks or Factors

  • Unknown

Clothing

  • Unknown

If You or Anyone You Know Has Information About The Disappearance of Dana Rishpy, Please Contact the Israeli Police, FBI, Mexican Police, or the nearest Israeli or American embassy.

Missing Person poster for Dana Rishpy

Resources:

  • u/Arztwolf (2019) ‘Missing In Mexico: What happened to Dana Rishpy?’, Reddit. Link
  • Perelman, Mark (2007) ‘Backpacker Mysteriously Vanishes in Mexico’, Forward, 26 December. Link
  • Olsen, Lise (2009) ‘Missing Israeli’s parents look for answers in Houston’, Houston Chronicle, 9 April. Link
  • Janalopa (2007) ‘Dana Rishpy from Israel, Missing in Mexico’, Trip Advisor. Link
  • Jerusalem Post (2007) ‘As Dana Rishpy turns 25, her family search for her worldwide’. Link
  • Israel National News (2011) ‘Development in Dana Rishpy Case’, 22 July. Link
  • dotr (2016) ‘Mexico – Dana Rishpy, 24, Israeli student, Tulum, 30 March 2007 *POI American or Australian*’, WebSleuths, 21 July. Link
  • Let’s Find Them (2013) ‘Dana Rishpy, Israeli National, Disappeared After Being Seen On Video With An Unidentified Male In Tulum, Mexico’, 28 February. Link
  • Robles, M. (2018) ‘Todo sobre el misterioso caso de Dana Rishpy’, Playa Riviera, 3 April. Link
  • Gallindo, E. (2009) ‘SUSPECT ARRESTED IN DANA RISHPY CASE’, Your Free Press, 16 April. Link
  • Development in Dana Rishpy Case, (2011) Your Free Press, 26 July. Link
  • Your Free Press (2007) ‘DANA RISHPY/MATTHEW WALSHEN STILL MISSING IN MEXICO’, 13 June. Link
  • Casarrubias, J. (2007) ‘They say the Israeli is alive, in Honduras’, Today Quintana, 14 June. Link
  • Halley, J. (2007) ‘Israeli missing in Mexico’, NRG, 27 April. Link
  • Lilac Trail (2007) ‘Young Israeli woman missing in Mexico for a month’, YNet, 27 April. Link
  • Greenberg, B. (2008) ‘Israeli girl’s disappearance marks 1-year anniversary’, Jewish Journal, 11 April, Link.
  • Rolly, P. (2009) ‘Did you once help woman in Mexico?’, The Salt Lake Tribune, 16 July. Link
  • Let’s Find Them (2013) ‘Dana Rishpy, Israeli National, Disappeared After Being Seen On Video With An Unidentified Male In Tulum, Mexico’, Missing & Unidentified People, 28 February. Link
  • Your Free Press (2007) ‘NEW EVIDENCE IN RISHPY CASE’, 16 May. Link
  • Alequin, R. (2007) ‘OPEN LETTER TO MATTHEW WALSHIN AND FRIENDS’, Your Free Press, 25 October. Link
  • Alequin, R. (2008) ‘POSSIBLE BREAK IN THE DANA RISHPY CASE’, Your Free Press, 17 March. Link
  • Cherem, S. (2007) ‘DANA RISHPY SERIES’, Grupo Reforma.

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