An 18-year-old Nuevo León woman whose death in April made headlines in Mexico and abroad died of asphyxia by suffocation, a third autopsy found.
The body of Debanhi Escobar was found in an underground water tank at a motel in General Escobedo on April 21. She disappeared almost two weeks earlier after getting out of a taxi on a highway in the same municipality, apparently because the driver had touched her breasts.
Femicides are common in Mexico, but Escobar’s case attracted major attention, at least partially because of a haunting photo taken by the taxi driver that showed her standing alone next to the highway in the dark.
The third autopsy found that she died due to “obstruction of respiratory orifices,” but investigators didn’t specify what had blocked her nose and mouth. The head of Mexico City’s forensic service said Monday that no signs of sexual violence were discovered, a finding that contradicted the second autopsy. Dr. Felipe Takajashi also said that Escobar died three to five days before her body was found, indicating that she was alive for over a week after she disappeared.
It was unclear whether she had been held against her will for that period. No attempts were made to collect a ransom for her release.
Investigators said the third autopsy didn’t establish that Escobar was murdered, but the woman’s father has always maintained that his daughter was the victim of a heinous crime and that her body was planted in the motel cistern.
A first autopsy performed by Nuevo León authorities determined that the young woman died from a blow to to the head after apparently falling into the motel cistern while still alive. The second autopsy, performed by independent experts on the request of Escobar’s family, found that she was sexually assaulted before being murdered.
The General Escobedo motel was searched twice before Escobar’s body was found in the cistern. Video footage from the motel suggested she had entered its grounds, wandered around and then headed off in the direction of an area where three cisterns are located.
The taxi driver who was supposed to take Escobar home on the night of her disappearance was detained for questioning, but more than three months later no one has been arrested in connection with her possible – or presumed – abduction and murder.