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Family of public defender who died in Mexico says he suffered skull fractures, scrapes, and bruises

The death of Elliot Blair was determined by Mexican authorities to be accidental, but his family suspects foul play.
Orange County public defender Elliot Blair was found dead below a third-floor balcony at Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach.
Orange County public defender Elliot Blair was found dead below a third-floor balcony at Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach.NBC Los Angeles

The family of a California lawyer who died during a trip to Mexico says an official autopsy and a separate family-commissioned investigation challenge the idea that he died accidentally.

Elliot Blair, who worked as a public defender in Orange County, California, died Jan. 14 at a resort in Rosarito Beach, 32 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican state of Baja California. Colleagues and family said he was there celebrating his one-year wedding anniversary.

Officials in Baja said Blair, who was 33, appeared to have fallen from the third floor of the hotel and was lifeless when first responders arrived early that morning.

A Mexican state autopsy circulated by the family lists Blair's blood alcohol content at .10, which in Baja as well as the U.S. state of California is just above the driving limit of .08. It also mentions "aggravated homicide" as a possible crime in the death, although the document has not been verified by the Baja California state attorney general.

Blair's family has questioned the conclusion that his death was the result of traumatic brain injury caused by an accidental fall, and they have hired a Santa Monica, California-based injury expert, Dr. Rami Hashish, to review evidence, family attorney Case Barnett said.

Additionally, a private pathologist's review of Blair's death sought by his family has found that the lawyer suffered roughly 40 fractures to his skull, Barnett said by email.

The Orange County Register and its parent company, the Southern California News Group, first reported news of the fractures and other evidence possibly inconsistent with an accidental death determination.

Blair's widow, fellow Orange County public defender Kimberly Williams, told the publications the idea he may have been drunk is inconsistent with his ability to drink and stay sharp. "I've never seen him stumble drunk," she said.

"A fall does not make sense," she said.

She has said a detective at the scene of the death Jan. 14 told her Blair's body had evidence of a gunshot wound, Barnett confirmed.

The document said to be a translation of the official autopsy in Blair's death was forwarded to NBC News by Barnett. It includes photos of the body that the family's experts say are inconsistent with an accidental fall.

The images depict scrapes and bruises on knees, left foot and left arm, the last of which Barnett said could be a sign of a defensive wound.

The Baja California state attorney general did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In her first television interview, Williams told ABC News' "Good Morning America" on Thursday someone killed her husband.

She told the show the two had been stopped by police in the Rosarito area Jan. 13, shortly before his death early the next morning, and had given the officers cash in exchange for their freedom.

"We were both rattled," Williams said.

The officers alleged the vehicle they were in rolled through a stop sign, Williams said. Blair said the couple let officers know they were staying at Las Rocas Resort and Spa after they asked, she said.

The Justice in Mexico research project, hosted by the University of San Diego, a Roman Catholic institution, noted in a November report, "Public Security in Baja California," that municipal police in Rosarito have long been accused of corruption and colluding with drug cartels.

The pathologist report on Blair's death commissioned by his family was expected to be completed within six weeks, Barnett said.