The 4 big questions about the case of Debanhi Escobar

After the appearance of a lifeless body last Thursday at the bottom of a motel’s water tank, forensic tests confirmed the sad outcome for Debanhi Escobar, the 18-year-old girl who had been missing in Mexico for almost two weeks.

“The body found is Debanhi Susana, and the cause of death was deep skull contusion. We offer our condolences to their families and loved ones,” said the attorney general of the state of Nuevo León, Gustavo Adolfo Guerrero Gutiérrez, on Friday.

“It is important to note that, at this time, no line of investigation is ruled out in this case. We will put all the resources in our hands to determine the facts that have happened and, if these indicate a crime, They will be prosecuted with the full force of the law.” he added.

However, the confirmation does not clarify various doubts and unknown details that surround the case. New data and evidence continues to appear days later, such as videos from surveillance cameras in the area where she disappeared in the municipality of Escobedo, in the north of the country, on the night of April 8 to 9.

There are so many questions that the state governor, Samuel Garcia had already asked the Prosecutor’s Office hours before to release the videos, photos, searches or other evidence on the case.

“We have the right to know what is in that investigation so that the truth comes out,” he said.

Even the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, offered help from the federal government to the authorities of Nuevo León so that this matter can be clarified as soon as possible.

Debanhi’s case shows “irregularities, doubts and questions that the Prosecutor’s Office is not answering,” told BBC Mundo Leticia Hidalgo, the founder of the organization United Forces for Our Disappeared in Nuevo León (Fundenl).

These are some of the questions that the investigation is expected to clarify.

1. Why was the body not found earlier if it was meters away from where Debanhi disappeared?

The body located on Thursday was a very short distance from the place where Debanhi disappeared on the Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway, commonly known as “highway of terror” for the cases of kidnappings and forced disappearances registered in it.

Specifically, the body was in a water tank in a motel, just 110 meters from a transport company in front of which Debanhi was seen thanks to security cameras.

This area is where her phone signal was located before contact was lost. For this reason, the search operations focused especially on this area and the hotel facilities were searched up to four times. But they never found the young woman.

It wasn’t until last Thursday that authorities found her body, and only after motel staff alerted police to a strong smell in the area.

“This is our greatest pain, they had her here close (…). Why did it take so long? How many times have they been here?” said the girl’s father, Mario Escobar, indignantly.

“I am devastated inside because they killed my daughter, they killed her (…). I am going to continue fighting to find the culprits,” he assured.

The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that in the place where the body was found, a previous inspection was carried out in which different institutions and the family itself participated, which “did not allow the now located body to be found”, without offering more details of the reason.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Security of Nuevo León, Aldo Fasci, admitted that there was a “massive human error” in the search efforts on the part of the authorities involved, although he assured that his troops had not participated in the search of the motel facilities.

For her part, the Fundenl’s founder harshly criticizes the “inefficient and ineffective” search methods in the case of the disappearance, not only in this case, but other similar missing-people cases in Nuevo León.

During the Debanhi trial, “it wasn’t even the investigators who found her, but rather the hotel employees who reported it. Everything is wrong, they show a total incapacity even when this case has been so mediatic and they know that what they do is being closely followed,” she pointed out.

2. Why did Debanhi’s father suggest that the body could have been placed later?

After declaring that he felt completely disappointed by the work of the State Prosecutor’s Office, Debanhi’s father questioned in the media how it was possible that the investigators were not able to find the body although it was close by from the beginning.

“Four times they have searched [la zona]and why does it appear on the fifth? Question: did they plant the body? Question: how did the body arrive?he asked this Friday.

“This is not a circus, my daughter is killed by incompetent people (…). Let whoever has to fall fall,” he criticized sharply.

After knowing the official cause of death released by the authorities, he declared: “Well, they hit her in the head then. What they tell me is a lie. You all know that they killed her or they planted her body. Do not tell me now the questioning of what the Prosecutor’s Office said (…). They planted the body and killed her, and we have to do justice for all the people who have gone through that and so that it doesn’t happen again.”

In fact, the father confirmed that the family hired an expert to do an additional necropsy and compare their results with those of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Hotel where the body appeared this Thursday.
This is the hotel where the body was found this Thursday. (Photo: REUTERS)

Luis Castellanos spokeswoman for the organization Buscadoras de Nuevo León that participated in the search efforts, also shows her surprise at what happened.

“At different times we were at that fence [the motel’s surrounding wall], in the the back of the place, for 30 or 40 minutes. The temperature those days was 35 or 40ºC, which would have already facilitated the process of decomposition of the body. It is very strange,” he told BBC Mundo.

“The number of people on the search was quite large. For almost two weeks they searched there, in the same place, with rescue dogs, and it turns out that Debanhi was not there. And from one day to the next, he is. It is absurd, and leaves us many doubts, agrees Hidalgo, from Fundenl.

Search for Debanhi Escobar
Her mother, like other relatives and friends, actively participated in the search for Debanhi Escobar. (Photo: REUTERS)

Since the appearance of the body, users of social networks made comparisons and placed as a trend “Paulette” the name of the girl who disappeared in Mexico in 2010 and whose lifeless body was found a few days later after countless searches in her own room, between the mattress and the bed frame.

3. Why didn’t the motel release the video from its security cameras?

The deputy prosecutor of the Public Ministry of Nuevo León, Luis Enrique Orozco, revealed that an investigation is underway to determine the reason for the concealment of security footage by the motel where Debanhi was found.

In statements to several local media, the official assured that those responsible for the business initially assured that the cameras were only for monitoring in real time and that the recorded material was not kept, but the weekend after the discovery of the young woman it was found that it wasn’t like that.

Their recordings shed new light on the last minutes of Debanhi’s life. In the images it can be seen that the young entered the facility alone and she is seen walking to the cistern area.

However, her father assured that this does not delimit responsibilities in any way, and also questioned that in the recordings of the transport company’s camera some fragments seem to be missing.

mario escobar
Mario Escobar, Debanhi’s father, harshly criticized the work of the State Prosecutor’s Office in relation to his daughter’s case. (Photo: REUTERS)

In fact, another of the trends that stood out in Mexican networks and in citizen protests since the discovery of the body is “It was not an accident”, promoted by who dismiss the theory that it could have been something fortuitous.

Some of the versions that circulated from the first moment pointed to the possibility that Debanhi could have accidentally jumped the hotel wall and fallen into the 4-meter-deep cistern.

But the father of the young woman assured before the videos of the motel were known that, due to the height of the structure, the young woman “could not have climbed on the fence.” “Not only am I going to hit my head, I hit my body, I break my bones (…), it cannot be that nothing else has died from that cause,” he declared, questioning the official forensic result.

4. Why did the taxi driver leave Debanhi in the middle of the night and took a picture of her?

One of the sequences of the case that raised the most questions, even from the start, was the photo of Debanhi on the night of her disappearance, alone, in the middle of the road.

The young woman had attended a party that night with two friends who had gone home earlier. According to Debanhi’s family, her friends called a “trusted contact” who works in taxi apps to pick her up, although the trip was made outside the platform.

When that last photo of Debanhi was released, the family confirmed that the image was real, which was taken by the taxi driver and sent to the girl’s friends.

These were shared with Debanhi’s parents, who immediately denounced them and began the search.

Last photo of Escobar taken by the driver who picked her up and then dropped her off.
Last photo of Escobar taken by the driver who picked her up and then dropped her off. (Photo: SOCIAL NETWORKS)

One of the unknowns was to understand why the driver had taken that photo. The girl’s father stated that he would probably have done it to show that she was in good shape when he left her.

But the biggest question about this part was knowing why Debanhi never got home in that taxi and why the driver left her alone on a highway at 4:25 in the morning.

This Friday, her father revealed that the Prosecutor’s Office has videos in his possession where the man is seen trying to touch the young woman’s breasts and blamed him for his daughter ending up alone at night.

“Debanhi complained that she was being sexually harassed and that is why she got out” of the taxi, said Mario Escobar, who assured that he will seek to initiate criminal proceedings against the man for harassment.

Debanhi Escobar

The taxi driver has already been questioned and, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, showed his willingness to collaborate at all times. After the (in)famous photo, a security camera recorded Debanhi minutes later in front of a transport company, apparently trying to communicate with someone, although he was unable to speak to anyone.

Some people, including Debanhi’s own father, criticized the fact that the girl’s friends had left her alone at the party that night. The Prosecutor’s Office said that Debanhi boarded the transport alone “due to apparent differences with local people.”

But according to Hidalgo, from Fundenl, “blaming friends is not the right thing to do. We should be able to walk day or night, alone or accompanied, without fear of something happening and no one should have the right to make us disappear.”

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