California attorney who died in Mexico remembered in night aglow with love

Mexico was Elliot Blair’s happy place.

It’s where he proposed to wife Kimberly Williams. It’s where he held his bachelor party. And it’s where he died suddenly and mysteriously Jan. 14 while celebrating his first wedding anniversary.

Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues in Orange County’s justice system overflowed the Orange circle Thursday, Jan. 26, to celebrate the life of the 33-year-old deputy public defender and to demand justice in his death.

There was grief on the mourners’ faces, but comfort in each other’s arms as they cried and remembered a gentle force for good, a defender of the poor whose death has triggered an international controversy.

“It truly is a nightmare,” said Blair’s father-in-law, Craig Williams. “We’re still trying to bring Elliot home.”

Mexican authorities have concluded Blair accidentally fell three stories to his death from an open-air walkway at the Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito Beach. Family members believe he was brutally killed, and they become more convinced the more they investigate.

However, the vigil Thursday was more about happy memories than recriminations.

Williams and his wife, Janet, remembered Blair as the dream son-in-law, the one every parent hopes for.

“We all adored Elliot,” said Janet Williams.

Added Craig: “We have just incredible pain. His poor mother lost the most amazing son. We’re grieving for so many people and trying to be strong for our daughter.”

Blair’s mother, Stella, wept as she talked of her son in a night aglow with fluorescent sticks.

“The loss is immense. I can’t even define it,” she said. “(But) the outpouring of support really humbles me.”

As each speaker came to the podium, there was one constant thread: Blair loved to bestow nicknames. He called one friend “Jethro,” from the Old Testament, because Blair guided him out of the desert and showed him a better path. He had dozens of nicknames for his wife, Kimmy, also a deputy public defender. Friend Annie Rodriguez was “A-Rod.”

“Your smile was sunshine,” Rodriguez eulogized.

Unsaid Thursday night were the questions, so many questions, about Blair’s death.

Authorities reported Blair’s wife told police he left his hotel room night of his death to shoo away noisy pigeons. His family disputes the pigeon story and has argued Blair was murdered.

Fueling the family’s disbelief with official reports is that the lead police investigator at the scene of Blair’s death told Williams that he was shot in the head. An autopsy did not find any bullet or knife wounds on the body and concluded that Blair died of “traumatic brain injury.” The family plans to have an independent autopsy done next week.

The Baja California Attorney General’s Office also reported that Blair had alcohol in his system, but would not disclose the actual blood alcohol level.

Case Barnett, the attorney for Blair’s family, said they were told his body was embalmed at the behest of Mexican prosecutors, not allowing blood to be drawn for an independent toxicology report — another point of contention. Blair’s wife also was encouraged by Mexican police to cremate the body, but she refused.

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