Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mexico mom killed demanding justice for slain teen

By OLIVIA TORRES, Associated Press Dec. 17, 2010

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Gunmen killed a mother who had been protesting for
three days in front of a governor's office in northern Mexico to demand justice
for her slain daughter, authorities said Friday.

Masked men pulled up in a car Thursday night and shot Marisela Escobedo Ortiz
in the head in front of the governor's office in Chihuahua city, the capital of
the state by the same name, said Jorge Gonzalez, special state prosecutor for
crime prevention.

Surveillance cameras around the government building showed gunmen getting out
of the car and Escobedo fleeing into the street toward the governor's palace,
but one of the gunmen chased her down and shot her — an image transmitted
repeatedly on national television broadcasts.

A spokesman for the state attorney general's office, Carlos Gonzalez, the
gunmen had exchanged angry words with Escobedo's brother just before the
shooting. He said investigators believe one of them is Sergio Barraza, who had
been the main suspect the killing of Escobedo's 17-year-old daughter. He was
absolved by a court in April for lack of evidence.

Escobedo was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died within minutes.

Escobedo has been campaigning for a conviction in the killing of her daughter,
Rubi Frayre Escobedo, whose burned and dismembered body found in August 2008 in
Ciudad Juarez, a violent city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

She has staged numerous marches, once wearing no clothes, wrapped only in a
banner with her daughter's photograph.

"This struggle is not only for my daughter," Escobedo said then through a
megaphone, her voice breaking. "Let's not allow one more young woman to be
killed in this city."

Three days ago, Escobedo planted herself in front of the offices of Gov. Cesar
Duarte and vowed not to move until investigators showed progress in the case.
In an interview with El Diario newspaper Sunday, Escobedo claimed she had
received death threats from Barraza's family.

Police never established a motive in Frayre's killing.

Prosecutors said Barraza, Frayre's live-in boyfriend, admitted murdering her
and led police to the body. But during the trial, he proclaimed his innocence
and claimed he had been tortured into confessing. A judge ruled in April that
prosecutors failed to present material evidence against him.

The case exemplifies the problems of the judicial system in Chihuahua state,
one of the first in Mexico to adopt oral trials instead of the system of
closed-door interrogations and filings of documents form most Mexican trials.

Despite training, Chihuahua police and prosecutors have struggled to adapt to a
system that puts the burden of proof on prosecutors. Many homicide cases have
been thrown out for lack of evidence or never make it to trial. Often, police
rely solely on confessions that suspects later claim were made under duress.
Newly captured suspects in much of Mexico are often displayed to the press with
bruised faces.

In Ciudad Juarez, where Frayre was killed, police have overwhelmed by drug gang
battles that have made city one of the world's deadliest. More than 3,000
people have been killed in the city of 1.3 million this year alone.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that last year, when 2,600 people
were killed in Ciudad Juarez, prosecutors filed 93 homicide cases and got 19

Chihuahua's judicial deficiencies go back years before the new system was
implemented, or before drug-gang violence soared to unprecedented levels.

In the 1990s, hundreds of women were killed around Ciudad Juarez, with about
100 sexually assaulted and dumped in the desert.

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