MEXICO CITY — A Phoenix-based flight attendant for U.S. Airways was found dead in a Mexico City hotel room early Saturday morning in what local police are calling a homicide, and according to the victim’s mother, a suspect is now in custody.
Nick Aaronson, 27, was found naked, face down on the hotel bed, unconscious, with a belt around his neck and his hands tied behind him. Aaronson showed signs of being choked and beaten before being strangled to death, according to a spokesman for the local patrol district of the city’s police force.
Police were called to Aaronson’s room at the Hilton Hotel when he failed to appear to catch a scheduled shuttle bus Saturday morning, prompting fellow crew members to have hotel employees check on him.
Investigators say no drugs or weapons were found at the scene, and the contents of his luggage was found scattered from the bed leading to the door to the outside hallway, although police homicide detectives were not releasing further details.
Nick’s mother, Anita Aaronson, told KPHO-TV that the FBI called her on Sunday to tell her they had made an arrest. She said they used hotel security cameras to catch the man. A friend of the victim said the suspect stole Nick’s iPhone and police were able to track his location using the phone’s GPS system.
Deborah Volopeck, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) Council 66 — a union which represents U.S. Airways employees — and who knew Aaronson personally, told the Arizona Republic, that Nick was a “very popular” and “very loved” member of the airline’s Phoenix-based crews.
“It’s tragic. We are caring for our co-workers. We’re a tight-knit group in Phoenix. “What our focus is right now, is caring for our co-workers who all know Nick… His loss is a heavy loss for all of us,” said Volopeck.
A statement on the AFA’s website says there doesn’t appear to be a safety breach at the hotel. Despite that fact, a spokesman for the airline told media inquiries that U.S. Airways has decided to move the crews to another hotel in Mexico City while on layover.
“We do not believe our crew members are at risk. However, until this matter is resolved, layover crews will be temporarily relocated to an alternative location.”
Aaronson, who was gay, was active in several LGBT rights causes, including participating in the NOH8 Campaign, was a supporter of marriage equality, and advocated on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign.