Missing PhD Student Found Dead with Multiple Gunshot Wounds

Gabriel Trujillo, a 31-year-old doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, was gunned down on June 19, during a field trip to Mexico for his plant research project. Roxanne Cruz de Hoyos, Trujillo’s fiancée, reported him missing on June 17 after he crossed the Arizona border into the Sonora region for plant collection. Days after her reporting, authorities located Trujillo’s body with multiple bullet wounds in his SUV.

Anthony Trujillo, Gabriel’s father, flew from Michigan to Mexico to join Cruz de Hoyos and search for his son. The duo continues to seek assistance from the US and Mexican governments for further information on Gabriel’s untimely demise.

While the Sonora state prosecutor’s office investigates the facts and underlying causes of his death, UC Berkeley announced word of Trujillo’s death to its campus community last June 23.

Trujillo, a Michigan native was on track to graduate with a doctorate in 2025 when he was researching the common buttonbush plant. His mission was to gain new knowledge on why the plant thrived in places like the US, Canada, and Mexico and potentially apply his research results to wildlife conservation and restoration efforts.

Cruz de Hoyos created a GoFundMe page for Gabriel’s family and friends to share their fond memories of him. Cruz de Hoyos wrote on the fundraiser’s page, “Gabriel was…unfailingly kind and loving to everyone.” The couple had bought a house and looked forward to a wedding led by an Indigenous elder by the end of the year. She plans to hold a Danza Azteca ceremony, an Indigenous spiritual tradition, in the San Francisco Bay Area to honor Gabriel’s memory.

Trujillo’s family had urged him to avoid the drug-plagued area, yet he believed his trip was essential for his research. UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology wrote in an email to its campus community, “We all face a world that is less bright for this loss.” Tragically, Trujillo will never get to fulfill his ambitions of habitat conservation and garden creation. His death reminds us that we must consider the dangers of traveling to certain areas and respect Indigenous culture.