(NewsNation) — It was a weekend of tears and bittersweet memories for relatives, friends and colleagues of Orange County Deputy Public Defender Elliot Blair, who died during a trip to Mexico.
On Saturday, according to the L.A. Times, Blair’s loved ones gathered at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove to celebrate his life. They remembered that he loved to help people, and often stayed late at work to speak with his clients, the newspaper reported.
Before leaving for Mexico, Blair had found a support group for his mother, who was still grieving the recent sudden death of her husband.
“I’m still going to the grief class, and it’s because of him,” she said.
Blair died last month while celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife at a resort in Rosarito.
Mexican authorities claim the death was accidental — that the 33-year-old was intoxicated and fell from a hotel balcony.
However, his family insists Blair was murdered.
His widow claims they were extorted by local police on the night he died.
“The police corruption in Mexico is a real problem, but in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, it is not going to be any worse than losing out on some cash,” Greg Morrison, a writer with ThePresentPerspective.com, said.
Morrison knows this from experience — he and his wife were pulled over by the police twice for alleged traffic violations while driving in Mexico City. One officer demanded a “spot fine,” which is supposedly illegal.
“He walked me to an ATM with his hand on his hip,” Morrison said. “He didn’t pull a gun on me, but his hand was on his gun, intimidatingly.”
The Morrisons eventually handed over nearly $300 to the police officer, only to be stopped again just five minutes later and forced to hand over another $20.
It’s not known if Blair’s death is linked to any other incidents, but a family attorney has noted multiple inconsistencies in the police account and the public defender’s injuries.
With spring break right around the corner, the State Department put out a warning about killings, kidnappings and violent crimes in Mexico.
Six Mexican states are at the department’s highest warning — a “do not travel” designation. Rosarito, where Blair died, is listed as an area to reconsider.