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Luz Padilla Luz Padilla: femicide or suicide?

Evidence suggests woman alleged to have been burned to death set herself alight

But witnesses' testimony suggests otherwise

Jalisco authorities on Tuesday presented evidence that suggested that a woman who died from severe burns last week wasn’t attacked by others but rather set herself on fire.

However, Attorney General Luis Joaquín Méndez Ruíz stressed that there was no concrete proof that Luz Raquel Padilla was responsible for inflicting upon herself the severe burns she suffered to 90% of her body.

At a press conference, Méndez presented video footage that showed that Padilla bought two 500-milliliter bottles of medicinal alcohol and a cigarette lighter on the same day she sustained burns to 90% of her body. She died in hospital on July 19, three days after her body was badly burned.

Méndez said that authorities had no evidence that a man who allegedly threatened to burn Padilla alive was in a Zapopan park when the victim was set alight. He noted that the man himself, as well as his mother and sister, have denied that he was there.

Any hypothesis that Padilla set herself alight is inconsistent with testimony from witnesses cited in media reports last week. They said that four men and one woman doused Padilla with a flammable liquid before setting her on fire. A Zapopan municipal police report also said that Padilla had had a discussion with four people who allegedly attacked her in the park.

For his part, Méndez said that authorities hadn’t identified anyone directly involved in a “possible attack” on the now-deceased victim.

However, the man who allegedly threatened Padilla – a neighbor who is believed to have scrawled messages such as “I’m going to burn you alive” and “I’m going to kill you, Luz” inside common areas of their apartment building – is currently in custody in connection with an alleged previous attack on the victim.

Sergio Ismael I. is alleged to have physically and verbally assaulted Padilla on May 5, after which the latter obtained a restraining order against him. The attack supposedly occurred after Padilla poured a bucket of water over the man’s dog.

According to #YoCuidoMéxico, a caregivers’ advocacy organization, Padilla received constant death threats from neighbors because her young son, who is autistic, made noises during his “moments of crisis” that annoyed them. It said last week that Padilla, who belonged to #YoCuidoMéxico, previously survived an attack in which her chest was doused with bleach.

A judge ruled Tuesday that Sergio I. must stand trial for the alleged assault in May and remanded him in preventative custody. A complaint against him for threats was dismissed by the same judge.

Méndez said that the state will continue to investigate until it has certainty about what happened to Padilla. He emphasized he wasn’t making any conclusion based on the evidence that the victim bought two bottles of alcohol from a pharmacy and a lighter from a liquor store, both of which are located close to the park where Padilla sustained her injuries.

“The intention isn’t ever to re-victimize or criminalize anybody, neither Luz Raquel nor the person who is detained, who has rights too,” Méndez said.

The attorney general noted that the mother and father of Sergio I. had both filed complaints against Padilla for her alleged aggressive behavior toward them. The mother told authorities that she and members of her family were victims of threats made on social media.

According to Méndez, she provided police with her own security camera footage that apparently showed Padilla setting paper on fire outside her apartment door. Footage also shows Padilla changing the angle of a security camera in her building to conceal an interior wall on which the threats against her later appeared. The implication is that she – rather than Sergio I. – was responsible for scrawling the threats.

Padilla’s death came almost three weeks after an attack on a Morelos woman who was set on fire, allegedly by a family member, on July 1. Margarita Ceceña Martínez died in a Mexico City hospital on Sunday.

With reports from Milenio and El Universal 

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