Nancy and Sam Davis were attacked by gunmen Wednesday while driving their 2008 Chevrolet pickup on a highway near San Fernando, about 70 miles south of the Mexican border city of Reynosa, police said.
A bullet struck Nancy Davis, 59, in the head. Her husband raced to get her to medical help, speeding across a border bridge into the United States against oncoming traffic, police said. He was met by Pharr, Texas, police officers. Nancy Davis was rushed to a Texas hospital but died of her wound, Pharr police said.
"Driving that type of truck is an eye-catcher," police Sgt. Ray Lara told the AP. "We figure that maybe they don't bother the church people. But they want those trucks."
The couple had worked as Christian missionaries with a group called Gospel Proclaimers since the 1970s, friends said.
Maryanne Wheeler, who did missionary work with the couple, said Nancy Davis loved Mexico and understood the risks involved in her work. The couple lived in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas but also had a home in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.
"Who you need to feel sorry for is the Mexican people, because for 40 years she has unreservedly, unconditionally loved, reached out to the Mexican people," Wheeler told KRGV-TV.
Merton Rundell, a finance director at Union Bible College in Indiana, told Action News 4/CNN that the couple were "dedicated, wonderful people," who made the "ultimate sacrifice" for their religion.
The Davises are the second U.S. couple to come under attack in Mexico in recent months. On Sept. 30, McAllen, Texas, resident David Hartley was Jet-Skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake when he was killed. His wife, Tiffany, said Mexican pirates opened fire and shot her husband, whose body fell into the water. Tiffany Hartley was able to make it back to shore on the U.S. side of the border lake.
The Mexican side of Falcon Lake is controlled by the Zeta drug gang. The Zetas are also very active in the area where the Davises were attacked, authorities said.
Tiffany Hartley expressed sympathy today for the Davis family.
"I don't know them, but my heart breaks for them," she told the AP.