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Forensic report concludes law student Debanhi Escobar was raped and murdered as Mexico's president vows justice

Teen's case, crimes against women in Mexico
Body of Mexican teen found in water tank, sparking outrage over crimes against women 03:45

Mexico's president has promised justice to the parents of a law student whose death triggered a public outcry, after an independent forensic report concluded that she was raped and murdered.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met with the family of 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar, whose body was found last month in a motel water tank 12 days after she disappeared.

"I spoke with them and made a commitment to help clarify what happened and to ensure that there is no impunity," Lopez Obrador said Friday in the northern city of Monterrey, where the incident happened.

Homage to Debanhi Escobar, in San Nicolas de los Garza
A friend of Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old law student who went missing on April 9 and found dead inside a water tank of the Nueva Castilla motel, amid a spate of disappearances of women in Nuevo Leon state, pays homage to her, in San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico April 25, 2022. DANIEL BECERRIL / REUTERS

They are "very good people, a teacher, his wife, and as parents they are very hurt, broken," he told reporters.

Escobar's death is now being investigated as femicide, after originally being registered as a disappearance, Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejia said.

The forensic report commissioned by the family concluded that the law student suffered "a violent homicidal death," and her body showed signs of a sexual violence, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais, which obtained the document.

Escobar's family delivered the document to the state prosecutor's office on May 2, the daily reported.

The official autopsy report, which has not been published, did not mention signs of sexual violence, according to El Pais.

Previously, prosecutors said that Escobar died of a blow to the head and that they were not ruling anything out, including an accident or murder.

An eerie photo taken on the night that Escobar disappeared showing her standing in the dark by the roadside after an altercation with a taxi driver went viral.

She quickly became a symbol for an angry women's rights movement in a country where around 10 women are murdered every day.

The attorney general's office in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, whose capital is Monterrey, dismissed two public prosecutors for "errors" and "omissions" in the case.

Theories about the teenager's fate have spread on social networks and in some media, encouraged by videos released or leaked by prosecutors.

People hold signs as they participate in the women's march demanding justice for Debanhi Escobar, who disappeared on April 9 and was found dead in the water tank of the Nueva Castilla motel, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, on April 22, 2022. JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

Video surveillance footage shows Escobar's movements after leaving the party, having argued with a man, until she arrived on foot alone at the motel.

A brief glimpse of her looking through a restaurant window is the last image of her alive.

Her father Mario Escobar said in video posted late Thursday that if the prosecutor's office was behind the leak of the forensic report to the media, then its heads should resign.

In 2021 alone, Mexico registered 3,751 murders of women, most of which are still unpunished.

"Criminalization of the victims"

Psychosocial support specialist Valeria Moscoso sees a pattern in the case of Escobar and others.

"The indolence, limited investigation capacity, criminalization of the victims and risk of impunity are being repeated," she said.

According to prosecutors, there have been 56 murders of women this year in Nuevo Leon, 42 of which were categorized as femicides -- killings of women because of their gender.

Around 300 women have disappeared in the state so far in 2022, of which 90 percent have been found alive.

Last month, Nuevo Leon Governor Samuel Garcia said he would increase funding and resources to help combat gender violence, Reuters reported.

"We are working very hard to address the causes of this problem and I will be very clear: to the rapists, and those who commit feminicide, and all those who hurt the women of Nuevo Leon, know that we will find them and punish them to the fullest extent of the law," Garcia said in a Facebook post.

The problem extends throughout Mexico, where in 2021 there were 3,751 murders of women, most of which are still unpunished.

Nearly 100,000 people have gone missing nationwide, mostly since 2006 when the deployment of the military in the war of drugs set off a spiral of violence.

Escobar's death sparked unusually intense media interest in Mexico, whose femicide crisis dates back to the 1990s and affects poorer women in particular, many of them killed by their partners.

Last month, hundreds of women marched through downtown Mexico City and its suburbs to protest Escobar's death.

Marchers chanted "Justice, justice!" and carried a banner reading "24,000 are missing" about disappeared women. Overall in Mexico, the number of missing people of all genders has risen to over 100,000.

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