The cause of death of an American woman who was found dead at a Mexican resort is being called into question. Her death was initially determined to be due to alcohol poisoning, but a new video has emerged showing her being assaulted, and it is now being investigated as a violent crime.
On Oct. 28, Shanquella Robinson, 25, of Charlotte, North Carolina, traveled with six of her friends to the resort city of San José del Cabo where they stayed at the Fundadores Beach Club, WBTV reported.
Just a day later, Robinson was found dead at Villa Linda 32, a rental which is offered by CaboVillas.com. Authorities launched a criminal investigation, according to WSOC-TV. It wasn’t long before Robinson’s friends called her parents, frantically informing them that their daughter had died.
“They said she wasn’t feeling well, that it was alcohol poisoning,” Robinson’s mom, Sallamondra Robinson, told the news outlet.
Mexican authorities reportedly told the family that their daughter had died of alcohol poisoning, but her death certificate revealed that the cause of death was a “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation,” an instability of the first two neck vertebrae. Alcohol was at no point mentioned in the report, and reads that the time between injury and death was about 15 minutes, noting that Robinson was found unconscious in the living room.
Now, however, a video has emerged which allegedly showed Robinson being beaten inside a hotel room. Someone can be heard in the disturbing video asking if she “could at least fight back.”
It’s unclear where and when the video was taken, but Sallamondra Robinson says that the people in the footage were the friends who went to Mexico with her daughter and believes the video was shot during the trip.
“It was never a fight. She didn’t fight, they attacked her,” she said.
Shanquella’s travel companions could not be reached by WSOC. Four numbers were disconnected and two went to voicemail, and text messages to those numbers were not returned.
Warning: The following video contains graphic footage.
On Thursday, the State Attorney General’s Office of Baja California Sur confirmed the autopsy results, telling ABC News that “an investigation was initiated for femicide,” which is considered a hate crime when a girl or woman is killed solely due to their gender.
WSB-TV reported that Michael Lettieri, an expert on femicide in that region of Mexico, said “it is supposed to be investigated in a very particular way that’s sensitive to the gender dynamics of the crime.”
Lettieri explained that when a woman is killed in Mexico, investigations are often launched as a femicide, adding that investigators are searching to see if she was killed because of her gender or if domestic violence was involved.
The widespread attention the case has generated could help get the crime solved, Lettieri said, adding,“That it is an American, means there will be additional pressure on the Mexican government and the state government to resolve this case and I think that will likely lead to a resolution.”
Robinson’s parents also expressed their frustration at the conflicting information, and they are relieved that authorities are pursuing a criminal investigation.
“It’s like a nightmare. I can’t even sleep,” Shanquella’s father, Bernard Robinson, told WSOC. “I just want some truth because this doesn’t add up right.”
“By the grace of God, I think I am going to get to the bottom of this,” he added. “God ain’t gonna fail. It’s going to come out. I’m not giving up. I am very confident that I am going to have peace of mind.”
Robinson’s mother said that her daughter, a hard-working business owner, was happy to be in Mexico.
“I looked at some of her posts that she had put up,” she said. “She was really having a nice time and I don’t know where it went wrong from there.”
Sallamondra Robinson told WNCT that the group went to Mexico to celebrate a birthday.
“She told me they had a chef. They were getting ready to eat. They were eating tacos or a salad or something, and I said, ‘OK. I love you. Have a good night, and I will talk to you tomorrow,’” she told the outlet. “I never talked to my child again. She never made it back home.”
Sallamondra Robinson added comment about her daughter’s friends: “They said she wasn’t feeling well. She had alcohol poisoning. They couldn’t get a pulse. Each one of the people that was there with her was telling different stories.”
While Robinson’s body is back home, her mother has many questions about her death and hopes that justice will prevail.
“She was a good child and had a great heart, and she did not deserve to be treated like that,” Sallamondra said.
The FBI is aware of the footage, and encouraged “anyone with related photos or video to contact” the agency. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Charlotte office said that the agency has been in touch with the family.
The State Attorney General’s Office of Baja California Sur said the investigation is ongoing and that “to the extent that the legal framework allows it, the results will be informed.”
The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen died in Mexico during the time of Shanquella’s trip, but WSOC was denied further information, citing respect and privacy for the family.