Anger over Mexico's creaky, inefficient justice system boiled over after a mother who waged a two-year battle to bring her daughter's killer to justice was herself shot to death, possibly by the same man suspected of murdering the teenager.
A security video recording shows masked men pulling up in a car in front of the governor's office in the northern city of Chihuahua. One appeared to exchange words with anti-crime crusader Marisela Escobedo Ortiz
, who was holding a vigil outside.
She tried to flee by running across the street, but the gunman chased her down and shot her in the head
late Thursday, said Jorge Gonzalez, special state prosecutor for crime prevention.
Escobedo was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died within minutes.
Escobedo's daughter, Rubi Frayre Escobedo, disappeared in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, in 2008.
After the body was discovered last year, the mother launched a campaign pressing for a conviction in the case. Escobedo 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 through a megaphone at that march, her voice breaking. "Let's not allow one more young woman to be killed in this city."
Three days ago, she planted herself in front of the offices of Gov. Cesar Duarte and vowed not to move until investigators showed progress in the case. In an interview with the newspaper El Diario on Sunday, Escobedo said she had received death threats from Barraza's family
Duarte said state security officials had been assigned to guard Escobedo, although from a distance. He said their failure to protect her Thursday would be investigated.
Prosecutors said Barraza, Frayre's live-in boyfriend, admitted murdering her and led police to the body. But at trial he proclaimed his innocence and claimed he had been tortured into confessing. The judges ruled in April that prosecutors failed to present material evidence against him.
The case exemplifies the problems of the judicial system in Chihuahua state, one of the first to adopt oral trials instead of the closed-door interrogations and filings of documents used for 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. Newly captured suspects in much of Mexico are often displayed to the press with bruised faces.
Police in Ciudad Juarez 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.