Lawyer who died in Mexico had 40 skull fractures, pathologist says. ‘Someone did this to him’
The Orange County public defender who died while on vacation in a popular tourist area of Mexico last month sustained dozens of skull fractures, according to the family’s lawyer.
Case Barnett, the lawyer for the family of Elliot Blair — whose mysterious death at a resort in Rosarito in January has raised questions among his loved ones — said that an independent pathologist in Los Angeles hired by the family to perform an autopsy found Blair had about 40 fractures in the back of his skull.
The pathologist did not rule on a cause of death, and the report could take five or six weeks to publish, Barnett said.
Blair and his wife, Kimberly Williams, had gone to the Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Mexico to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
But Blair, who at 33 was forging his path as a dedicated attorney for indigent clients, did not return home alive. He was found dead at the hotel on Jan. 14, several floors below the couple’s room in his underwear, a sleeping T-shirt and socks. Mexican authorities have said his death was the result of an accidental fall, but Blair’s family has insisted it was a “brutal crime.”
In her first public interview on Thursday with ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” Williams, who is also an Orange County public defender, shared new details about the night her husband died, saying ultimately that “someone did this to him.”
Williams said she and Blair were driving back to the resort on the night of Jan. 13 from a local restaurant when they were stopped by police, who claimed the couple rolled through a stop sign. The officers asked for money, she said. Blair, who was fluent in Spanish, explained they didn’t have the amount of cash police wanted. Another officer asked where the couple was staying, and Blair told authorities they were staying at Las Rocas and were on vacation, Williams said. He also explained the couple were both attorneys and showed the police his work badge. Eventually, they paid the officers $160 — all the cash they had — and were let go, she said.
“We were both rattled,” Williams said, “but at the same time we both had this feeling of thank God they didn’t do anything more to us.”
Back at the resort, the couple went to the lobby bar, where they danced before going up to their room. Williams got into bed, and Blair took a shower, she said, adding that she eventually fell asleep.
Williams said she was woken by a security guard and the hotel manager, who were in her room asking her if it was her “boyfriend down here.” She ran toward the hotel door and saw they were pointing to the ground in an area below the resort’s open-air walkways just outside their door, she said. The couple had been staying in a room on the third floor, which was 20 to 25 feet from the ground, the family’s lawyer said.
“That was my Elliot down there,” Williams said through tears. “I just kept yelling at them to call an ambulance. They said an ambulance came an hour ago.”
Barnett said Blair was on Instagram at 12:35 a.m. ABC News reported that it obtained 911 phone records showing the resort placed a call at 12:50 a.m. to report a person who apparently suffered a fall. Paramedics arrived at the scene 20 minutes later and concluded Blair had no vital signs, ABC reported.
In a previous interview, Barnett told The Times that a plainclothes police detective who was wearing a badge told Williams at the scene that Blair had a bullet wound in his head. Williams told ABC News on Thursday that authorities also used “accident” and “suicide” to explain Blair’s death.
“It was a roller coaster,” Williams said of the police explanation. “I mean, everything under the sun, except for what I think happened: Someone did this to him.”
Mexican authorities attributed Blair’s death to an accidental fall from the hotel’s outdoor walkway. Baja California Atty. Gen. Ricardo Iván Carpio Sánchez called Blair’s death a “terrible case” and said an autopsy conducted by the state’s Forensic Medical Service ruled that Blair died of a traumatic brain injury. The report did not indicate visible injuries consistent with a firearm or sharp weapon, Carpio said. The prosecutor’s office also said a toxicology report showed Blair had a “considerable” amount of alcohol in his blood.
But on Thursday, Barnett said that an autopsy report produced in Mexico and dated Jan. 14, characterized Blair’s death as an “aggravated homicide.”
The family hired Dr. Rami Hashish, a biomechanical expert, to review images included in the report, which showed bruising on Blair’s arms and legs, “road rash” on Blair’s knees and an injury to his left toe, Barnett said.
Hashish told ABC that evidence that Blair died because of an accident appeared thin.
“There’s bruising marks on the body. There’s indications of [potentially] being dragged on the front of the body. There’s fractures to the back of the skull,” Hashish said. “Nothing really points to the fact that it was necessarily an accident.”
Barnett provided copies of the autopsy report in both Spanish and English, translated by the American Translators Assn., as well as Spanish and English copies of the toxicology report, which indicated Blair had a blood alcohol level of .10, 2 points above California’s legal driving limit. (Williams told ABC that Blair had five or six drinks, with his last beverage at around 11:30 p.m., and that she had never seen Blair become so intoxicated that he couldn’t “care for himself.”)
A spokesperson for the Baja California attorney general’s office could not confirm the authenticity of the English-language autopsy report, except to say he “understands it to be a translation of the original.” He did not respond to requests to verify the copy of the Spanish-language report, which is marked “confidential” across its pages.
The spokesperson said the autopsy conducted by Mexican officials did not determine that the death was an aggravated homicide but again pointed to “expert opinions that the death was by accident.”
The investigation remains open, and the attorney general’s office is investigating the death as an accident because it “doesn’t have factors to determine it otherwise,” the spokesperson said.
Since the case first emerged, Blair’s family has maintained he was the “victim of a brutal crime,” and hired a private detective to investigate the case. The family hopes to show the world who Blair really was, they said: a promising, clever lawyer called to public service, surrounded by a loving family with plans to start his own family one day.
“He was my rock, my everything,” Williams said.
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