Who's who in the 'Paulette' mystery
Paulette Gebara Farah, the 4-year-old Mexico City girl who went missing from her bedroom -- only to be found dead there nine days later -- is at the center of a bizarre mystery that has riveted Mexican society, Ken Ellingwood writes in The Times:
The discovery ignited a flurry of water-cooler speculation and Internet chatter: How could the girl's body have gone undetected by the parents, nannies, investigators and countless others who traipsed through the home? Was it planted there? If so, by whom?
Moreover, will anybody believe authorities if they claim to have solved the mystery?
For more than two weeks, the case has dominated television, radio and the newspapers, reduced by revved-up Mexican media to one word: Paulette. It is hard to remember a recent case that has so caught the public attention.
The 'Paulette' case has even taken on political ramifications, Ellingwood says. If authorities in the state of Mexico, outside Mexico City, can't figure out what happened to Paulette, the controversy could prove a black eye for Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto, considered by many as a front-runner for the presidential election in 2012.
Part of what has made this story so fascinating is the amount of attention it has received, despite the many social and security crises challenging the country on a daily basis. Below, to help you keep the pertinent characters in order as the story continues to unfold, is a who's who of the mystery's main figures:
Paulette Gebara Farah: The 4-year-old victim. Developmentally disabled, Paulette reportedly went missing from her bedroom in the Interlomas suburb on the night of March 21, or early March 22. She was found dead in the same room early on March 31, wedged into her own bed. Paulette was buried at the French Cemetery in Mexico City on April 6.
Lisette Farah: Paulette's mother. An attorney, she gave numerous media interviews inside the bedroom from which the girl went missing -- including upon Paulette's bed. After she, her husband and two nannies were placed under a form of house arrest a week into the investigation, she faced numerous public accusations including "personality disorder," insincerity, marital infidelity, and even culpability in the girl's death.
Mauricio Gebara: Paulette's father. A businessman, he was reluctant to give media interviews early into the search, according to some accounts. He and Farah became estranged as the case unfolded. Last week, Farah gave a radio interview in which she accused her husband of "hiding something." Gebara and his family have taken custody of the couple's other child, Lisette, a 7-year-old girl. "The only thing I can say is that, for me, it wasn't an accident," Gebara said in one interview, referring to Paulette's death.
Alberto Bazbaz: The attorney general of Mexico state. He's held news conferences announcing major developments in the case. Almost from the start, Bazbaz has been accused of bumbling the investigation. Two opposition parties in Mexico state have called for his resignation.
The Casimiro sisters: Erika and Martha were live-in nannies in the home. Along with Paulette's parents, they were detained and released by authorities after inconsistencies emerged in the four adults' statements to investigators. Watch in this video profile of the sisters at El Universal as the two tear up recalling their affection for the young victim. "The girls always spent more time with us," Martha says at one point. "Especially Paulette."
Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto: A bona fide star in the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, as it is known is Spanish, Peña Nieto hasn't made any significant public comments on the Paulette case. But if the investigation ends poorly and to the dissatisfaction of the public, any blame would eventually trickle up to the governor's palace.
El Universal has a special multimedia feature on the Paulette mystery, with an interactive timeline.
Over the weekend, Mexico state investigators once again interviewed Lisette Farah and the Casimiro sisters. For the sake of balance, it's worth noting there were numerous fatal accidents, homicides and discovered executions in the metropolitan region in the same time span.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City.
Photo: Erika and Martha Casimiro. Credit: El Universal.com