Surveillance video shows Mexican law student Debanhi Escobar before her death as cold case turns into a ‘show’

The still unsolved death of the law student Debanhi Escobar has highlighted not only the dangers faced by women in Mexico, but also the questionable judicial and media handling of the high-profile case.

Three weeks after the body of the 18-year-old was found on the outskirts of the northern city of Monterrey, all hypotheses remain open, from an accident to a murder.

So far, the prosecution has only confirmed that she died of a blow to the head and was found in the water tank of a motel, 12 days after she disappeared after attending a party.

Investigators visited the site four times before discovering the law student’s body.

Protest after the death of Debanhi Escobar, in Monterrey
A woman holds a reward sign during a protest following the death of Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old law student who disappeared on April 9 amid a series of disappearances of women in the state of Nuevo Leon, in Monterrey, Mexico. , on April 22, 2022.

STRINGER/REUTERS


The Attorney General’s Office of the northern state of Nuevo León, whose capital is Monterrey, dismissed two prosecutors for “errors” and “omissions” in a case that has shocked the country.

“We have a lot of evidence that Debanhi was murdered,” said her father, Mario Escobar, who arranged a private autopsy and is expected to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday.

The night she died, Escobar left a party and then got out of a taxi after an altercation with the driver, who took a photo of her standing alone on the side of a road at night that went viral.

He denies being involved in her death.

“It’s becoming a media spectacle”

Theories about the fate of the teenager have proliferated on social networks and in some media, encouraged by videos broadcast or leaked by the prosecution.

Video surveillance footage shows Escobar’s movements after leaving the party, after arguing with a man, until she walked alone to the motel.

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Authorities released video surveillance footage showing Escobar’s movements before he disappeared.

Reuters


A brief glimpse of her looking through a restaurant window is the last image of her alive.

The videos have been repeatedly shown on news and talk shows, in one of which a psychic claimed to have been in contact with Escobar in the afterlife.

“It is becoming a media spectacle,” although it helps keep the case alive, said sociologist Christian Ascencio, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

One risk, he said, is that the pressure on prosecutors leads to “a culprit being fabricated.”

The report bothered Escobar’s mother, Dolores Bazaldua.

“I hear things like ‘she was the one who did drugs. She bought the vodka.’ Unfortunately, she is not here to defend herself,” Bazaldua said.

The repeated dissemination of images, including one of Escobar apparently buying liquor, victimizes her again and marks an ethical decline in the press, said Andrés Vidal, a political science professor at UNAM.

Mexico’s Congress is considering legislation that would make leaking information about victims a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“Women think the same thing can happen to them”

Psychosocial support specialist Valeria Moscoso sees a pattern in the case of Escobar and others.

“The indolence, the limited investigative capacity, the criminalization of the victims and the risk of impunity are repeated,” he said.

According to prosecutors, there have been 56 murders of women this year in Nuevo León, 42 of which were categorized as femicides: murders of women because of their gender.

Around 300 women have disappeared in the state so far in 2022, of which 90 percent have been found alive.

Last month, Nuevo León Governor Samuel García said he would increase funds and resources to help combat gender-based violence, Reuters reported.

“We are working very hard to address the causes of this problem and I will be very clear: to the rapists, and to those who commit femicide, and to all those who harm the women of Nuevo León, know that we will find them and punish them. to the full extent of the law,” Garcia said in a Facebook post.

The problem extends throughout Mexico, where in 2021 there were 3,751 murders of women, most of which remain unpunished.

Nearly 100,000 people have disappeared across the country, most since 2006 when the deployment of the armed forces in the drug war triggered a spiral of violence.

Escobar’s death sparked unusually intense media interest in Mexico, whose femicide crisis dates back to the 1990s and particularly affects the poorest women, many of them murdered by their partners.

The outcry over the case has brought femicide closer “to more privileged social sectors, with more media and political influence, who consider themselves less likely to suffer this violence,” Ascencio said.

“Many women think the same thing can happen to them” because they also go out with friends or use taxis, she added.

Last month, hundreds of women marched through downtown Mexico City and its suburbs to protest Escobar’s death.

Protesters chanted “Justice, justice!” and carried a banner reading “24,000 Missing” about missing women. Overall, in Mexico, the number of missing persons of all genders has risen to more than 100,000.

MEXICO-WOMEN-PROTEST
People hold signs as they take part in the women’s march demanding justice for Debanhi Escobar, who disappeared on April 9 and was found dead in the water tank of the Nueva Castilla motel, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, on April 22, 2022. .

JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images


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