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January 30, 2023

California public defender died in ‘brutal crime’ during Mexico anniversary trip, family says

California public defender died in ‘brutal crime’ during Mexico anniversary trip, family says

The family of a California public defender who died while celebrating his first wedding anniversary in Mexico believes he was the victim of a “brutal crime,” their lawyer said Tuesday.

Elliot Blair, 33, died Saturday outside his hotel room at Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach, roughly 32 miles south of San Diego, the lawyer, David Scarsone, said in a statement.

The incident occurred in an open-air walkway on the resort’s third floor, he said.

Blair’s family has not heard about his death directly from local authorities; instead, it learned about what happened from a “liaison” to the local coroner’s office, the lawyer’s statement said.

The liaison, who is not identified in the statement, told the family that Blair died of severe head trauma and that his case had been forwarded to prosecutors for a possible homicide investigation, the statement said.

Neither Rosarito Beach Mayor Hilda Araceli Brown Figueredo nor Las Rocas Resort responded to requests for comment Tuesday night.

The attorney general of Baja California did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In a statement to The Orange County Register, the attorney general’s office said Blair’s death appeared to have been the “result of an unfortunate accident from a fall by the now deceased from a third-story floor.”

Mexican authorities said in a statement they are investigating and are in contact with U.S. officials who are informing Blair’s family, the newspaper reported.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

Blair was found in his underwear and socks and a sleeping T-shirt outside a room where he and his wife and had stayed in the past, the lawyer’s statement said.

Blair was not intoxicated, it said.

A toxicology report has not been completed, the statement said. Blair’s family plans to carry out its own independent investigation, hiring a private investigator and a forensic pathologist, Scarsone said.

“Elliot was a brilliant attorney with a bright future,” the statement said. “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.”

Orange County Public Defender Martin Schwarz told The Register that Blair had worked for the public defender’s office since 2017, the year he passed the bar exam. His wife, Kimberly, also worked for the public defender’s office, Schwarz told the newspaper.

He said Blair was a “devoted husband, terrific person and a fantastic lawyer who dedicated his life to serving his clients and helping the county’s most vulnerable.”

Marlene Lenthang reported from New York City and Tim Stelloh from Fort Bragg, California.

Marlene Lenthang

Marlene Lenthang is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

Tim Stelloh

Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

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