Hundreds gathered at Plaza Square Park in Orange, California, to mourn friend, husband, and Deputy Public Defender Elliot Blair, who was found dead in Mexico while celebrating his first wedding anniversary Jan. 14.
The glowing sticks in their hands gently illuminated the darkness in blue—Blair’s favorite color—as if reminiscing about the nights he and wife Kimberly Williams would dance under neon lights he had hung in their backyard.
The attorney’s death at the age of 33 remains a mystery, as investigations are underway to determine his cause of death. He joined the county’s Public Defender’s Office in 2017.
Blair’s body was found at Las Rocas Resort and Spa in Rosarito. Local police said he fell from a third-floor balcony after being intoxicated while his family members said they believe he was murdered.
Mourners at the Jan. 26 vigil—elected officials, public defenders, friends, and loved ones—demanded justice.
“I first met Elliot when he was 16 years old, and I was a brand-new public defender,” said Case Barnett, the attorney for Blair’s family, who spoke first at the vigil.
He said he was giving a speech about being a public defender in a U.S. history class.
“He came up to me afterward … and we were friends ever since,” he said.
He thanked everyone for attending, and for donating to the family’s GoFundMe page, which has raised $116,050 as of 5 p.m. Jan. 30.
According to Barnett, Blair’s body is being delivered from a funeral home in Tijuana and is expected to arrive in Orange County Jan. 30.
County Public Defender Martin Schwarz also offered his condolences.
“Elliot was always driven by and motivated by a deep desire to help people,” he said. “He shared the perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
A representative for Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) read a statement of his support from Washington D.C.
“Elliot was a devout public servant, and a relentless litigator. Under his eye, no stone was ever left unturned,” the statement read. “And no Californian, no matter who they were or how much money they had, was ever left behind.”
One of Blair’s best men at his wedding and longtime friend, Eric Neer, ended his comments with what Blair would always say to his two-year-old son after paying a visit to his home in Orange.
“I think it only feels right and it’s fitting that I concluded my thoughts about Elliot with ‘Bye, I love you, and I miss you,’” he said.
Neer told The Epoch Times he felt comfort from the large crowd at the vigil but wasn’t surprised since Blair was known for making and maintaining connections.
“It’s not surprising. I knew the reach my friend had,” he said.
Friends and family doubt the official reports from Mexico of Blair falling from the balcony of his hotel room to shoo away noisy pigeons, which Barnett said contains discrepancies.
The attorney said Blair’s body has been embalmed at the direction of Mexican authorities, potentially making toxicological tests—to see whether alcohol was present in Blair’s system—difficult.
“People who saw him don’t think he was drunk,” Barnett said.
He said an expert later reached out to the family, who plan to conduct their own autopsy, and said some tests might still be possible.
Recently elected Orange County Supervisor, Vicente Sarmiento—who is a former public defender—was also in attendance. His office has been assisting with the ongoing investigation.
On Jan. 17, another attorney who represents the family, David Scarsone, issued a statement saying the family suspected Blair was the victim of a “brutal crime” and not an accident “based on their initial investigation.”
The family said they have not received any word directly from Rosarito Beach police, the local prosecutor’s office “or any other Mexican officials,” according to Scarsone.
“Elliot was a brilliant attorney with a bright future,” he said in the statement. “Elliot was a loving husband, son, and brother. Elliot’s tragic, untimely, and suspicious death has left his family and community with a huge hole in their hearts that will never be repaired.”