MEXICO CITY—The haunting story of a young woman left on the side of a highway late at night in northern Mexico ended in sorrow, with her decomposing body found in a subterranean water tank at a motel.
Assistant Public Safety Secretary Ricardo Mejia said Friday that the woman’s body—apparently unrecognizable after what may have been nearly two weeks in the water—had a crucifix necklace and clothing that Debanhi Escobar was wearing the night she disappeared.
Despite what authorities in the border state of Nuevo Leon described as a massive search for her, the story ended the way it often does in Mexico: when her body was found by local people.
“The alert was sounded by hotel workers, because of the fetid odors coming from the area,” Mejia said.
State prosecutors later said they had confirmed the body was Escobar’s.
Escobar’s case made headlines because of a haunting photo taken by a driver who was supposed to take her home that night. It was not clear why she got out of the car, but her father, Mario Escobar, said prosecutors told him that surveillance camera footage suggested the driver inappropriately touched his daughter.
“I suppose that my daughter did not put up with the harassment,” the father said. The driver has been questioned, though his full name has not been released. Mario Escobar said while the driver may not have killed her, he was responsible for his daughter’s death.
The driver, who worked for a taxi app, took the photo to show Debanhi, 18, got out of his car alive April 8 on the outskirts of the city of Monterrey. There she was, a young woman standing alone at night on the side of a highway, wearing a skirt and high-top sneakers.
Nobody saw her until late Thursday, when investigators managed to pull her body from the 12-foot (4-meter) deep water tank near a pool at the roadside motel.
Mario Escobar said “The prosecutors didn’t do their job correctly.”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gave his condolences to the family on Friday and said the teenager’s death could be investigated by the federal attorney general’s office at the family’s request so that there are “no doubts” over the case.
During the week that investigators said 200 personnel used drones, search dogs, and reviews of security camera footage to look for Debanhi, her body was actually lying not far from where she had been last seen.
Just before Debanhi Escobar disappeared, another women was slain in Monterrey, Maria Fernanda Contreras, 27. A suspect—apparently, a friend or acquaintance of the woman—has been arrested.
During the week authorities were searching for Escobar, local media reported that the bodies of five other women and girls had been found in the state. The victims had all been reported missing around the same time as Debanhi. Four were 16 or younger.
Later, the head of the state Search Commission, Mary Balderas, said the reports were wrong. She said all five young women had been found alive.
Reuters contributed to this report.