Family expecting to receive body of OC public defender who died in Mexico
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - The family of an Orange County deputy public defender who died in Mexico while celebrating his first wedding anniversary was expecting to receive the body Thursday so further forensic examination can be done to confirm a cause of death.
Officials in Mexico have indicated 33-year-old Elliot Blair died from a fall from the hotel where he was staying with his wife, but his family suspects he was a victim of a violent crime.
"We're hopeful to get the body back today," said attorney Case Barnett, who is representing Blair's family.
The body was being delivered from a funeral home in Tijuana to one in Westminster, Barnett said.
The body has been embalmed, which will make it difficult to do toxicological tests to confirm or deny the reports of alcohol in his system, Barnett said. Blair's family are adamant that he was not drunk.
"People who saw him don't think he was drunk," Barnett said.
"I originally thought there was no possibility" to do toxicological tests when a body is embalmed, Barnett said. "But an expert called us and said we might be able to get toxicology from the eyeballs."
A private investigator has collected a great deal of information and the family hopes to be able to have a full accounting by next week, Barnett said.
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The family doubts the reports of a fatal fall as he was on the third floor of the hotel. The first floor is underground so it is more like two stories or a 25-foot fall, Barnett said.
On Jan. 17, another attorney who represented the family, David Scarsone, issued a statement saying the family suspected Blair was the victim of a "brutal crime" and not an accident.
"The family of Elliot Blair is absolutely reeling from the tragic death of this amazing young man who was in Rosarito Beach celebrating his first wedding anniversary," according to the statement from Scarsone.
The family "wholeheartedly believes based on their initial investigation that Elliot was the victim of a brutal crime."
The family had delayed making a statement as it was "hopeful of promised information by the Mexican authorities. However, it appears that information isn't going to be directly disseminated to the family."
Blair, 33, died early Jan. 14. He had been with the Public Defender's Office since 2017.
The family said they have not gotten any word directly from Rosarito Beach police, the local prosecutor's office "or any other Mexican officials," according to Scarsone.
The family has only been in touch with a "liaison" to the local coroner's office, he said. About 2 p.m. Jan. 16 the liaison "indicated that the cause of death was severe head trauma and that the case had been forwarded to the district attorney's office to conduct a possible homicide investigation," Scarsone said.
The family told the liaison they intended to conduct an independent investigation, which would include a private investigation firm and a forensic pathologist, Scarsone said.
Hours later the family said it saw a news article quoting "Mexican officials" saying the death appeared to be owed to an "unfortunate accident," according to Scarsone.
The attorney said Blair's wife, Kim, has been told "multiple versions of what happened to Elliot."
Scarsone said the couple had stayed at Las Rocas Resort and Spa multiple times over the past five years and that Blair was a "fluent Spanish-speaker."
The two had stayed in the same room multiple times before so Blair "was very familiar with the layout of" the resort, Scarsone said.
"The incident did not occur off their room's private balcony, nor any balcony, for that matter," Scarsone said. "The incident occurred in an open-air walkway located outside the front door of their room at Los Rocas Resort and Spa."
Blair was not drunk at the time, Scarsone said.
The public defender "was found in his underwear, his sleeping T-shirt and socks," Scarsone said.
The authorities and a representative of a local funeral home had "suggested" cremating the body, Scarsone said. The family, however, wanted to be able to conduct its own autopsy of the body.
"Elliot was a brilliant attorney with a bright future," Scarsone said in the statement. "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.
"Elliot was a loving husband, son, and brother. Elliot's tragic, untimely, and suspicious death has left his family and community with a huge hole in their hearts that will never be repaired."