California & USA

O.C. public defender’s family orders independent autopsy.


The body of an Orange County lawyer whose death in Mexico is still clouded by questions has been returned to Southern California, where his family has ordered an independent autopsy, according to their attorney.

Elliot Blair, 33, was found dead Jan. 14 at Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach, a popular tourist area in Baja California. He and his wife, Kimberly Williams, also an Orange County deputy public defender, were on vacation celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Mexican authorities attributed Blair’s death to an accidental fall from an open-air, third-floor walkway at the hotel, but Blair’s family said they believe he was the “victim of a brutal crime.”

The independent autopsy is likely to be conducted Wednesday in Los Angeles, said Case Barnett, the family’s attorney.

The family wants to know “what happened to him that night, whether it was a fall or an attack, we want to know,” Barnett said.

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.

Blair’s family members, meanwhile, said they have been left to decipher conflicting information and have not had direct contact with Mexican authorities, often receiving reports about Blair’s death from intermediaries or local media.

Through their lawyer, the family has said that on the night of Blair’s death, a plainclothes detective told Williams that Blair suffered a gunshot wound to the head. About a day later, according to the family, a contact at the coroner’s office said that the paperwork in the case indicated Blair sustained a “blow to the head” and that his death was being investigated as a homicide.

The family also said the coroner liaison told them prosecutors had ordered for Blair’s body to be embalmed, which eliminated their hopes of conducting an independent toxicology report to refute statements that Blair was inebriated when he died. Authorities at the scene on the night Blair died suggested he was drunk, which Williams repeatedly denied. (The couple had previously been drinking at the hotel bar.)

Carpio has denied that the remains were ordered to be embalmed without permission.

Blair’s family is mounting its own investigation into his death, Barnett said. Through its investigators, the family learned that Mexican authorities “are conducting a more thorough investigation than we had initially believed” by probing the case as a possible homicide.

It was unclear whether the case was still open, Barnett said.

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