The family of a 33-year-old Southern California attorney is seeking answers about his sudden death earlier this month while celebrating his wedding anniversary in Mexico.
Elliot Blair died on Jan. 14 at a resort in Rosarito, Baja California, while on vacation with his wife, Kimberly Williams. Both worked as public defenders in Orange County, and his unexpected death was widely mourned in the local legal community.
Adding to his friends’ and colleagues’ shock was that a GoFundMe organized on his wife’s behalf described his death as a “brutal crime.” On Wednesday, an attorney representing the family told BuzzFeed News that Mexican officials at the scene told Williams that her husband had a gunshot wound to the head. Other officials then contradicted that account, describing his death as the result of a fall, and now the family is working to bring Blair’s body to the US for an independent autopsy.
“So we were trying to piece together what happened that night, we had been working well with local police,” family attorney Casey Barnett told BuzzFeed News. “We’re hoping that that continues so we can get his body back and we can get some of those reports so we can see ourselves what information they actually have.”
The Baja California attorney general’s office said that Blair’s death appeared to be the “result of an unfortunate accident from a fall by the now deceased from a third-story floor,” the Orange County Register reported earlier this month.
In a statement, the family said it received a call from a liaison who was in contact with the medical examiner’s office on Jan 16.
According to the statement, the liaison told the family that Blair’s cause of death was severe head trauma — not a gunshot wound — and that his case had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for consideration of a homicide investigation.
But three hours after the call with the liaison, the family saw a press release online by the prosecutor’s office in Mexico saying that Blair’s death was accidental, adding that he had a high alcohol level at the time of his death, Barnett said.
Barnett told BuzzFeed News that Williams and other witnesses who were with him that night did not see Blair drunk.
Confused by what they’re being told by Mexican officials, the family and their attorneys are working hard to get their own independent toxicology done on Blair’s body and get answers to what happened to him that night.
Bodies must be embalmed for transport, so Barnett told BuzzFeed News they’re working on other methods to get their own toxicology report. The family said in its statement that Mexican officials had repeatedly suggested that Blair be cremated, which it refused so it could get more answers about how he died.
The GoFundMe has raised more than $115,000, which will go toward helping the family to transport Blair’s body from Mexico to the US and other challenges involved.
A spokesperson for the US State Department told BuzzFeed News that they were aware of Blair’s death and will be ready to assist the family to “provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
A candlelight vigil in honor of Blair is planned for Thursday at Plaza Park in Orange, California.
“Elliot was a brilliant attorney with a bright future. Elliot’s smile was radiant and warmed the hearts of every person he came in contact with,” his family said. “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.”