Elliot Blair: California public defender died at Mexican resort after alleged police extortion

Kimberly Williams and Elliot Blair had been celebrating their first wedding anniversary in Mexico when the unimaginable happened.

In the year they had been married, the couple — both public defenders back home in California — had bought their dream home in Orange County and were already planning for children, Ms Williams said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday.

The trip to Mexico was full of dancing, karaoke and beach days at a dreamy resort. But after falling asleep next to her husband just past midnight on 14 January, Ms Williams was woken up by hotel staff delivering news of a tragedy she could not comprehend: her husband was dead.

Mexican authorities said that a very intoxicated Blair, dressed only in underwear, socks and a T-shirt, fell from a fourth-floor balcony in what they described as an accident.

But Ms Williams and Blair’s parents have fiercely refuted that story, claiming instead that he was murdered just two hours after local police officers extorted them for money.

The family is now demanding an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Blair’s death, with Ms Williams saying her husband was the victim of a brutal crime and she is in touch with US Officials.

“I still can’t [sleep in] a bed. I sleep on the couch because the last time I was in bed I was woken up to find my husband dead,” Ms Williams told ABC.

Here’s everything we know about the case:

Elliot Blair dedicated his life to ‘serving indigent clients’

Blair worked as a public defender in Orange County since 2017.

According to a GoFundMe page created by a family friend, he had dedicated his career to serving defendants who did not have the means to pay for legal representation, including clients who lived on the streets.

“Elliot was known as a patient and caring advocate. He was the best of us and was loved by countless members of our office and the Orange County legal community,” Annei Rodriguez wrote in the fundraiser’s description. “Elliot was known for a smile on his face and a clever mind.”

Elliot Blair worked as a public defender in Orange County since 201

(GoFundMe/Elliot Blair )

His wife, Ms Rodriguez said, was “his life.” The couple had known each other for nearly a decade before tying the knot in a ceremony last year.

“Elliot’s smile was radiant and warmed the hearts of every person he came in contact with. Elliot had an innate ability to connect with people from all walks of life,” a statement by Blair’s family read.

The family, including members with “extensive legal training” in criminal law, said they initially hoped Mexican authorities would release more information and show interest in conducting an investigation.

An independent autopsy has since revealed evidence that challenges local law enforcement’s assessment that Blair’s death was an “unfortunate accident.”

More than $117,000 have been raised to support the family’s wish to obtain answers.

An ‘extortion by local police’ just hours before the tragedy

On the night of Blair’s death, he and his wife left Las Rocas Resort and Spa in the city of Rosarito to go have dinner.

The couple dined and had some drinks — Blair had between five and six during a period of six hours that evening — and drove to the resort. On their way back, Ms Williams told ABC, they were stopped by police officers who accused them of rolling through a stop sign and demanded money.

According to the Register, the money extortion took place less than two hours before Blair died.

Ms Williams and Blair were celebrating their first wedding anniversary

(GoFundMe/Elliot Blair )

An officer reportedly asked the couple to hand him a sum that they did not have with them, a source close to the family told the outlet last week. They ended up paying $160 and were allowed to leave after an officer asked them where they were staying.

The couple arrived at the hotel and went to their room on the third floor. Ms Williams says they fell asleep around midnight after spending some time in the lobby.

The next thing she recalls, she said, is the manager and the guard in her room telling her that Blair was on the ground.

“… I ran out the front door and they’re pointing over the side of our front door area to the ground. Well, that was my Elliot down there,” Ms Williams recalled to ABC.

Family claims Mexican officials did not investigate the incident thoroughly

ABC obtained 911 calls, revealing that at 12.50am, the resort made a call reporting “a person who apparently suffered a fall”. Paramedics were at the resort about 20 minutes later noting that Blair had no vital signs.

Ms Williams said the authorities put forward a number of possible series of events, including both accident and suicide.

She said they went through “everything under the sun except for what I think happened: Someone did this to him”.

“I just know it’s not an accident. I know he didn’t fall. I just know that,” she added. “I want to do everything we can to figure out what happened in that 45-minute, hour time span. Because that’s what Elliot deserves. And that’s the hardest part for me, is not knowing.”

Blair fell from an open-air walkway at the Las Rocas Beach Resort in Rosarito, Mexico

(Google Maps)

She said police asked if they had been fighting.

“We’re here on our anniversary. What are you talking about?” she told officers. “No, we’re not fighting.”

According to The Orange County Register, local authorities claimed that Ms Williams told police Blair had left the room to shoo away pigeons that were making noises. The family has argued that Ms Williams made the remarks in reference to what had happened during the day, not right before Blair’s death.

The outlet also reports that at some point right after the body was found, a lead investigator told Ms Williams that her husband had been “shot in the head.”

The State Attorney General’s Office of Baja California referred to an autopsy in a statement to ABC, saying that the death of Blair “was the result of an unfortunate accident due to the fall of the deceased from a third floor”.

Blair’s family has said that they were repeatedly urged by Mexican officials to cremate his body, despite making a clear stance that they did not intend to do so. The remains were ultimately embalmed at the request of prosecutors in Mexico, according to the Register.

An accident ‘does not explain bruising and injuries’ found in independent autopsy

Mexican authorities said there were no indications that a struggle had taken place inside the hotel room, and according to a toxicology report, there was a “considerable” amount of alcohol in Blair’s body, the State Attorney General’s Office of Baja California added.

In a forensic medical necropsy certificate, the cause of death was recorded as severe head trauma.

But Ms Williams and her lawyer argue that the injuries indicate that Blair was attacked. Lawyer Case Barnett told ABC that “it’s the physical evidence we’ve been able to obtain, the autopsy”.

“The autopsy confirms that he, Elliot Blair, was murdered that night,” the attorney said.

Mr Barnett argues that it seems that Blair was attacked by more than one man, yet a motive remains unclear. Ms Williams said that Blair wasn’t drunk enough that he would have fallen off a balcony.

A biomechanics, body performance, and injury expert, Dr Rami Hashish, has been brought on to advise on the case. He told ABC that he doesn’t “really think that there’s much evidence” to “point to the fact that it was an accident”.

“I think it’s relatively clear the injury pattern just simply don’t add up with one another,” he added. “There’s bruising marks on the body.”

He added that there are “indications” on the front of the body that it was “dragged” and that there are “fractures to the back of the skull”.

“Nothing really points to the fact that it was necessarily an accident,” he said.

The family lawyer said the body was embalmed before they could conduct their own toxicology report.

‘I want the world to remember the person he was’

Ms Williams said that in the nine years since she had met her husband, he had never been sloppy when drinking.

“I’ve never seen him not be able to stand. I’ve not seen him not be able to walk and care for himself,” Ms Williams told ABC.

Ms Williams said she wants people to remain her husband for ‘his heart’

(GoFundMe/Elliot Blair )

“I want people to know he’s not some drunk that stumbled off the front ledge of our hotel room,” she said. “I want the world to remember the person he was, his smile, his heart. That’s one of the only things keeping me going right now … the idea of doing this for him, for honouring his name.”

Additionally, Blair’s family said that he was familiar with the hallways and walkways of the resort, as the couple had stayed in the same room three times prior to their final visit. They have retained a private investigation firm and an independent forensic pathologist to aid in the investigation.

A funeral service for Blair is scheduled for Saturday.

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