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Mother shot dead during anti-crime vigil outside governor's office in Mexico

Human rights activists hang a sign on the wall of the state prosecutors office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Friday to protest the killing of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter Rubi Frayre. 

Associated Press

Human rights activists hang a sign on the wall of the state prosecutors office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Friday to protest the killing of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter Rubi Frayre. 

Outraged when judges freed the main suspect in her daughter's killing, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz launched a one-woman protest across from government offices in northern Mexico.

Now she's dead too.

A closed-circuit camera captured the 20 seconds or so at 8:10 p.m. Thursday when a man got out of a white Volkswagen Jetta and approached Escobedo in Chihuahua's main plaza. Frightened by him, Escobedo ran across the street, dodging busy traffic, the assailant only footsteps behind her. He shot her in the head with a 9mm pistol at the entrance to the governor's palace.

The video shows the killer running back across the street and getting in the waiting car, which pulled away.

The images were captured by surveillance cameras around government offices. A spokesman for the state attorney general's office, Carlos Gonzalez, said the men in the car had exchanged angry words with Escobedo's brother just before the shooting. He said investigators think one of them is Sergio Barraza, who had been the main suspect in the killing of Escobedo's 16-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.

A 52-year-old retired nurse, Escobedo has been campaigning for a conviction in the killing of her daughter, Rubi Frayre Escobedo, whose burned and dismembered body was 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.

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 said he had been tortured into confessing. An appeals panel ruled in April that prosecutors failed to present material evidence against him. A separate court reversed the verdict, finding Barraza guilty, but he remains at large.

The case exemplifies the problems of the judicial system in Chihuahua state, one of the first in Mexico to adopt oral trials, similar to those in the United States, instead of the system of closed-door interrogations and filings of documents that 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.

Escobedo's slaying drew condemnations from politicians and human rights activists and appeared to be fresh evidence of the impunity with which criminals operate across much of Mexico. Adding to the sense of frustration, on Friday more than 140 inmates reportedly escaped from a prison in the border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Mexico's Attorney General Arturo Chaven announced Thursday that 30,196 people had been killed in drug-related violence nationwide since President Felipe Calderone took office four years ago. The number of deaths this year from January to November was 12,456.

Information from the Associated Press, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Deadly city

In Ciudad Juarez, where 16-year-old Rubi Frayre was killed, police have been overwhelmed by drug gang battles that have made the 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 the city, prosecutors filed 93 homicide cases and got 19 convictions.

Mother shot dead during anti-crime vigil outside governor's office in Mexico 12/17/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:42pm]
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