A ‘Shame Campaign’ Is Trying to Blame Debanhi Escobar for Her Own Death

The driver who was the last person to see her alive told local news that Escobar “was drunk or something.” Her female companions said she was “acting crazy.”

A driver and two girls who were some of the last to see Mexican teenager Debanhi Escobar alive before she was abducted and found dead in a water tank in the city of Monterrey are blaming the girl for her own demise for “acting crazy,” according to activists and Escobar’s family, part of an “orchestrated shame campaign.”

Juan David Cuellar, who was Escobar’s driver on the night that she disappeared, told Mexican television that he “only tried to help” but she  “was drunk or something.”


Cuellar took the last known photo of Escobar standing alone on an eerie highway in the early morning on April 8th - a picture that went viral and drew Mexico’s sharp attention to the case of the girl, who was missing for 13 days before her body was found. 

“I asked her friends what she drank that night or if they gave her something else because her words didn’t make any sense,” Cuellar said. “The authorities reviewed my case and haven’t found anything against me.”

Mario Escobar, Debanhi’s father, has publicly accused Cuellar of sexually abusing his daughter after he said he reviewed security camera footage taken from the road Cuellar took Escobar down before dropping her on the highway. 

“Juan David [Cuellar] reached out to grab my daughter’s breasts and she couldn’t take the assault … but the Attorney’s General Office said there is nothing to prosecute,” Escobar told local press

After Escobar’s body was found, Cuellar was arrested but then released by the authorities. 

A few hours after Cuellar’s interview was aired, Ivonne and Sarahi, two other girls who were with her the night she disappeared, talked about their last hours with Escobar on local television news. Sarahi said during the interview that Escobar was “was acting crazy and she even attacked us.”

“Some people we don’t know tried to take Debanhi from us because she was too drunk. They were carrying her and when I noticed, they let her go and she went and hid in the bathroom,” Sarahi said. “After that she ran away from the party”. 

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Authorities also made public a video from the party where Escobar and her friends were at around 3 am. In the short clip from a street security camera, Escobar is seen running away from a man who caught up with her and grabbed her before at least another six men surrounded her. They stay around Escobar for a few minutes and then the white car, allegedly driven by Cuellar, shows up and Escobar Gets into the back seat. A man and what appears to be one of Escobar’s friends talk briefly with Cuellar, before he drives away with her in the car. 

“This is a strategy orchestrated by the government to change public opinion around Debanhi’s case,” Claudia Muñiz from FUNDENL, a non-profit that works with the families of missing people, told VICE World News in reaction to the declarations of both Cuellar and Escobar’s female companions from that night. She called it an “orchestrated shame campaign” that is an attempt to reduce public sympathy for Escobar.

“These interviews are set up by the government. They want to make us think that women go missing because they were high or drunk,” she said. 


Nuevo León state authorities said Wednesday that Escobar accidentally fell into the water tank and managed to stand up before dying. 

“She didn’t die from drowning but from a blow to the head, but we think she managed to stand up after falling in,” said Nuevo León’s Forensics Director, Eduardo Villagomez, at a press conference. 

The government’s initial version of events suggested that Escobar had fallen into the tank accidentally and drowned.

Authorities also announced that two investigators had been fired after “finding details that suggested deficiencies in the investigations,” Nuevo León’s General Attorney, Gustavo Adolfo Guerrero said. 

Investigators had searched the motel on at least four occasions before without finding Escobar’s body. It wasn’t until the fifth search that they found her corpse at the bottom of an unused cistern. 

“They searched this place [the motel] four times and only on the fifth time they found the body of my daughter,” Mario Escobar, Debanhi’s father, said during a press conference this week. “How is that even possible?”

The abduction and murder of Escobar has shone a light on the number of missing women in the state of Nuevo León, and is of national interest. Her case has brought attention to the problem of missing people in Mexico generally - there are some 95,000 people officially missing - as well as the high rates of femicides. 

A number of girls went missing before Escobar in the weeks approaching her abduction, and their cases remain unsolved. Escobar is the 20th woman to be reported missing in the last four weeks in Nuevo León, a state that’s been host to a bloody war between the Sinaloa and Northeast cartels. 

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has downplayed her murder, and when her body was discovered said that women shouldn’t worry because such cases “happen everywhere.”


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