Suicide Is Ruled Out in Death of Local Man in Baja : Inquiry: After seeing the L.A. coroner’s report, Rep. Howard Berman vows to press the president of Mexico to investigate the killing of the North Hollywood man.


The death of 29-year-old Mario Amado of North Hollywood while he was being held by police in Mexico last June was not suicide and “there is enough evidence to suspect death at the hands of another,” the Los Angeles County chief medical examiner-coroner has declared.

The finding brought a vow from a congressman to press the president of Mexico to investigate Amado’s death.

“I would not certify this case as a suicidal hanging,” Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran concluded in a report to Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), casting further doubt on initial statements by Mexican police that Amado hanged himself with his sweater in jail shortly after his arrest June 6 in the Baja California town of Rosarito Beach.


“In spite of the incomplete information from the forensic examination done in Mexico,” the county medical examiner wrote on Oct. 15, “there is enough evidence to suspect death at the hands of another.”

In a letter released by Berman’s office Friday, he theorized that Amado’s death appeared to have been caused by “blunt force trauma”--a destructive blow with a fist or object--”to the abdomen, and neck compression.”

The medical examiner’s findings will be conveyed next week to Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari by Berman, who represents the district where Amado’s family lives, Rose Castaneda, a Berman aide, said Friday.

“We’re not going to let this drop--it’s not going to go away,” she said, adding that Berman also will ask the Mexican president to monitor an investigation by Mexican federal authorities into Amado’s death.

“The family, rightly so, is demanding the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for this,” Castaneda said.

Juan Ponce, senior legal adviser to the Mexican consulate general in Los Angeles, who confirmed in August that Mexican authorities already were investigating Amado’s death, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The medical examiner does not have jurisdiction over the case, Castaneda said, but he had been asked by Berman to evaluate both the first and second autopsy reports.

The first autopsy report was issued by Mexican authorities in Mexicali on June 9, three days after police arrested Amado at a beachfront condominium, alleging that he had beaten his girlfriend.

The report on the second autopsy--performed June 12 by a Los Angeles pathologist, Dr. Richard Siegler, who had been hired by Amado’s family--concluded in July that the presence of three cups of blood in the liver capsule was “strong evidence for a blow to the upper abdomen.” The resulting hemorrhage, Siegler concluded, “would likely produce shock” and someone in shock “would not likely have been able to hang himself.”

In his report to Berman, the county medical examiner noted that an abrasion, seen on some of 28 photographs taken by Siegler, “does not corroborate with . . . a sweater which was allegedly used” as the noose. He added that shoulder and back abrasions, as well as a scalp hemorrhage, “need further explanation.”

Meanwhile, FBI agents will join the investigation at the request of the Mexican government and will question witnesses in the United States, Castaneda said.

Amado’s brother, Joe Amado, 50, of Van Nuys, said Friday that he expects to be questioned along with others who, with Mario Amado, had gone to Rosarito Beach, a popular tourist resort south of Tijuana. There, they stayed at a condominium owned by Patty Griffin of North Hollywood, the friend who, according to Mexican police, had accused Mario Amado of beating her.

“If they’re going to this kind of trouble to question witnesses, I’m confident that the Mexican government--especially President Salinas--now wants to cooperate,” Joe Amado said Friday. “They want to look good in the eyes of the American people.”