The mother of a young woman murdered in Ciudad Juárez was herself killed in an event that has sparked condemnation from The United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Amnesty International, and a range of organizations inside of Mexico.
Marisela Escobedo may not have known just how right she was when she told reporters in May that she would fight for justice for her daughter until her last breath.
Escobedo was shot in the back of the head at point blank range the night of Thursday, December 16th, 2010 as she carried out a sit-in protest in front of the Governor’s Palace in Chihuahua City – capital of the state in which Ciudad Juarez is located.
She had been camped out in the park across the street from the palace for a week and a half, vowing not to move until authorities captured the confessed killer of her daughter, Rubí Frayre Escobedo.
[Audio - Marisela Escobedo in Spanish, fade down and translate over]
Pressuring the authorities to act was something Escobedo had grown accustomed to. Speaking at a forum in October, the retired nurse said she couldn’t give a single example of a case of a murdered young woman in Juárez that authorities have investigated on their own – without pressure from victims’ families.
Unlike most of the city’s so-called “femicides”, the identity of the killer was known in this case. That’s because Marisela Escobedo carried out her own investigation. She didn’t have to look far to find the killer. It was her son-in-law, Sergio Rafael Barraza, who had already displayed abusive and controlling tendencies before he beat 16 year old Rubí to death, burned her remains, and disposed of them in a trash dump.
What did take detective work was tracking him down after he fled Juárez with his infant daughter, Marisela Escobedo’s grand-daughter. But Escobedo did find him and he was arrested and tried under a controversial new system known as “oral trials”.
[Audio - Judge reading out ruling in Spanish, fade under]
In April, a 3-judge panel absolved the confessed killer over lack of evidence, despite his admission to having burned the evidence. The ruling provoked a gut-wrenching scene from the grieving mother who had spent her own time, energy and limited resources performing work that – on paper – should have been done by professional police investigators.
[Audio - Escobedo reaction to the ruling]
Escobedo was pulled screaming and crying from the courtroom and her daughter’s killer was set free. He’s been missing ever since.
But Escobedo kept fighting…and shining the spotlight on the incompetence and irregularities that have become hallmarks of the investigations into the femicide cases.
A group of attorneys was sucessful in overturning the ruling that absolved Barraza – and he was setenced in absentia – to 50 years in prison. Escobedo carried out a series of attention-grabbing moves to try to force police to track Barraza down and take him into custody. Just days before her murder, Marisela Escobedo confronted the Chihuahua state governor in public, saying justice was something the government metted out only for the priviledged.
Escobedo was gunned down literally in front of the government palace’s main entrance just minutes after the doors were closed for the night. The crime was caught on tape by security cameras but no arrests have been made.
And the crimes didn’t stop there. The night after Marisela Escobedo was gunned down while deminding justice for her daughter, the lumber store owned by her partner was burned to the ground by a group of armed men who also kidnapped her brother-in-law. A day later, her brother in law’s body was found wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag over his head.
Investigators deny any link between the crimes.
They’re just 2 more in the over 30 thousand deaths in Mexico in the past 4 years. Most of these crimes languish in the same impunity as the cases of the hundreds of young women murdered in Ciudad Juárez.
[The audio obituary was prepared for the Women's International News Gathering Service (WINGS) available here]