After 25-year-old Shanquilla Robinson died while vacationing in Mexico last month, the friends who were with her blamed it on alcohol poisoning.
But Mexican authorities told The Daily Beast on Thursday that the North Carolina hairdresser’s death is now being investigated as a homicide.
The development also contradicts a previous statement by the U.S State Department that said the available evidence did not necessarily show proof that Robinson was murdered.
“Initially, the investigation file was opened as a femicide,” the State Attorney General’s Office for the northwest Mexican state of Baja Sur said in an email, using the regional terminology for a certain classification of hate crime.
If the investigation does not indicate Robinson was killed because of her gender, it will be re-classed as a standard homicide, a spokesperson for the AG’s office said, adding, “The simple fact that the victim is a woman doesn’t determine that it’s a femicide.”
Robinson, who ran a successful hair-braiding business in Charlotte, died late last month under mysterious circumstances while in San Jose del Cabo with six friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. The group was staying at a luxury five-bedroom villa priced at $1,600 a night and up, and decided to stay in on their first night in town. A personal chef prepared dinner for the travelers, and Robinson said everything was fine when she called her mom to say she had arrived safely and would be back in touch the next day, local outlet WJZY reported.
Less than 24 hours later, Robinson was dead.
At first, the others who were there claimed Robinson had succumbed to alcohol poisoning, according to her mother. However, the autopsy report provided to the family said something very different—Robinson’s neck had been broken and spine severed, the local medical examiner determined. In an email, the State Attorney General’s Office for Baja Sur confirmed the cause of death was “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation.”
On Tuesday, Gerald Jackson, a blogger in North Carolina, posted a video of Robinson being violently assaulted by another woman in what appeared to be her final moments.
“Quella, can you at least fight back? At least something?” an off-camera voice says in the background as Robinson is pummeled to the floor.
Jackson received the clip from “someone who was in the room that sent it to an individual family member they are friends with,” he told The Daily Beast. Robinson’s father, Bernard, told The Daily Beast in a text message that the young woman getting attacked in the video was indeed Shanquella.
The case has garnered national attention and calls for justice from activists and celebrities, including Cardi B.
The doomed long weekend began on Friday, Oct. 28, and the group was set to return to the U.S. on Monday, Oct. 31, according to hotel records seen by The Daily Beast. But while the others made it home, Robinson was shipped back to Charlotte in a coffin.
Her friends said they found Robinson unconscious on the living room floor of their villa, and the property’s concierge summoned a doctor who was unable to revive the young entrepreneur, according to WJZY, which reported that the death certificate issued by the medical examiner in Cabo said nothing about alcohol poisoning or Robinson having been intoxicated when she died.
The State Attorney General's Office’s office (PGJE) told The Daily Beast that at approximately 6:15 p.m. on Oct. 29, they received reports about “a foreign female” who “lost her life…in a beach club in San Jose del Cabo.”
“State Criminal Investigation Agents went to the scene where the initial investigation was carried out under the corresponding protocols,” the office said in a Thursday statement. “Experts from the Director of Specialized services carried out the processing of the premises in search of any indications that should be included within the investigation file.”
“The PGJE will maintain the leadership of the investigation in order to collect more evidence and achieve an accurate clarification with the facts, without ruling out any hypothesis,” the office added.
Julie Byrd, the president of CaboVillas.com, through which Robinson and her friends rented the villa, did not answer her personal cell phone on Thursday and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The other people on the trip with Robinson have not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
Robinson’s parents would like to see someone arrested for their daughter's death, although no one, to date, has been.
“How could they do this to my baby?” Bernard Robinson told The North Carolina Beat. “They all need to be in jail right now in Mexico and they shouldn’t have been let go.”