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Mexican girl died by accident in bed, prosecutors say

Paulette Gebara Farah, 4, was found under blankets on her bed more than a week after she was reported missing. That is where she died, officials say, in a finding that exonerates her parents.

May 22, 2010|By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City —

Paulette Gebara Farah, the 4-year-old girl whose disappearance and apparent asphyxiation death riveted Mexico this spring, died by accident in her bed, prosecutors said Friday.

The finding exonerates the girl's parents. They have been at the center of a media storm since Paulette, who suffered developmental disabilities, was found dead in her bed March 31, more than a week after she was reported missing. Investigators said the body had gone undetected during the initial search for the girl.

Alberto Bazbaz, attorney general for the state of Mexico, said his investigation concluded that Paulette died during the night after she turned herself around in bed and ended up at the foot.

The prosecutor sought to squelch one source of public speculation: the theory that someone may have someone planted Paulette's body there. He said forensic tests showed that the child died in her bed and her body had not been not moved. Bazbaz said the body showed no signs of foul play.

Critics had called for Bazbaz to resign over the bungled handling of the case, which he initially labeled as "without question" a homicide. Many Mexicans saw the lapses as more reminders of the yawning flaws in their nation's criminal-justice system.

Bazbaz acknowledged failures by investigators who apparently didn't find the girl's body until they returned to the family's high-rise apartment outside Mexico City to try to reconstruct the March 21 disappearance.

"I recognize that the initial procedures carried out by this agency had deficiencies in not having searched the child's bed and bedroom fully," Bazbaz said during a news conference. He said pressure to solve the case quickly spurred "speculation and disinformation."

The parents, businessman Mauricio Gebara and lawyer Lisette Farah, and two nannies were briefly held under a form of house arrest.

Gebara and Farah cast doubt on each other's stories in public and later jousted over custody of the remaining daughter, 7-year-old Lisette. The mother was granted custody.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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