The body of Orange County lawyer Elliot Blair was embalmed in Mexico before his family could have his blood drawn for an independent toxicology test, an attorney said Thursday, Jan. 19.
Case Barnett, representing Blair’s family, said their investigator was told by the mortuary in Baja California that the body was embalmed despite the family’s request to first have his blood drawn. The family wanted to independently refute that Blair was inebriated — as reported in the Mexican media — when he fell early Saturday from a third-floor, open-air hallway at the Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach.
Mexican authorities did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday. However, the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico says embalming “must be done within 24 hours after death.”
The family does not believe Blair simply fell and insists the Orange County deputy public defender was murdered — a belief based partially on a statement made by a law enforcement investigator to Blair’s wife, Kim Williams.
“The lead investigator that night told her there was a bullet wound in his head. (The investigator asked) do you have a gun or any weapons?” Barnett said. The wife did not.
The family was told through an intermediary that Blair’s death was being investigated as a homicide.
An autopsy by Forensic Medical Services in Baja California, found no bullet wound or other evidence of foul play, chalking it up to a traumatic brain injury from what Mexican officials called an “unfortunate accident.” But Blair’s family plans to have an independent autopsy done and has hired private investigators.
The family also is suspicious because police at the scene encouraged Williams to cremate the body, Barnett said.
While blood evidence is typically preserved in government autopsies, Barnett said the family wanted its laboratory to draw its own sample.
“The importance of doing our own blood draw is they have the ability to determine with an independent analysis what the blood alcohol was,” Barnett said. “Right now, the Mexican authorities have control of everything. … Can they be trusted?”
He added, “This was devastating news to Kim and her family. The results were so important to them.”
Blair and his wife, also a deputy public defender, were at the resort to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. They had been at the hotel — and in their specific room — many times in the past five years and were familiar with the floor plan.
The couple had enjoyed an evening of dancing and drinking before retiring to their room, authorities said.
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The Baja attorney general said this week that Blair’s wife told police he left their room that night to shoo away noisy pigeons.
However, Barnett said Williams never told police that story. He said she told officers through an interpreter that Blair had earlier waved off pigeons roosting in the hallway ceiling.
Barnett said Williams was asleep when Blair fell and was awakened by two hotel workers who came through her open door and asked, “Is that your boyfriend?”
Williams went to investigate and ran down to the body, which was face down. She was told the ambulance had come and gone and that police were en route, Barnett said. Blair was in his underwear, socks and a T-shirt.
Police questioned Williams and allowed her to leave the hotel with only her wallet, Barnett said.