Mexican police say a man jailed for drunken behavior hung himself in his cell, but the forensic evidence points to murder.

Smiling Mario Amado with Mustache

Mario Amado

Police looking at the covered body of Mario after hanging himself in his cell

Police said he hung himself in his cell


The town of Rosarito Beach, Mexico, lies only 25 miles south of San Diego, California, just below Tijuana. It’s known for its beautiful sunsets and romantic beaches. That’s why two Los Angeles couples headed there one summer weekend in June of 1992. But their vacation soon turned into a deadly nightmare. Less than 24 hours after arrival, one of them, Mario Amado, was arrested after a fight with his girlfriend. Two hours later, he was dead. The local authorities claimed that he committed suicide. His brother, Joe Amado, thinks differently:

“I say it was murder, plain murder, and I knew that from the beginning, because I know my brother very well. They stole his life away from him. And we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

Police cruiser that picked up Mario for disorderly conduct

Mario was arrested for disorderly conduct

Mario and Joe Amado arrived in Rosarito Beach at 1:00 A.M. on June 6, 1992, ready to party. Mario’s girlfriend, whom we’ll call Paula, provided the condo. Joe and his girlfriend, Debbie, were just happy to be invited.

The two couples quickly broke out the tequila. They partied through the night, and around 4:00 A.M., Joe and Debbie went to bed. They awoke at around 7 A.M. to find Mario and Paula still awake, arguing. Mario told Joe and Debbie that he wanted to go home. Debbie was worried:

“I felt very disturbed, because I know Mario liked this girl very much, and he wouldn’t have wanted to leave if it wasn’t something serious.”

Investigator preforming an autopsy on Mario Amado

The Mexican autopsy said it was suicide

By late the next morning, Mario and Paula had apparently made up. It was the last time Joe would see his brother alive:

“I can still remember the expression on his face. He seemed very happy, like nothing was wrong.” 

That afternoon, Joe and Debbie took a long romantic drive along the coast. Meanwhile, back at the condo, Mario and Paula got in another heated argument on the front porch. Police soon arrived at the scene. Mario was arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and taken to the police station. He was placed in a holding cell, but was never formally charged with a crime.

At around 6:30 P.M., Joe and Debbie returned to the beach house. To their surprise, nobody was home, and there was no key under the mat. A housekeeper explained that there had been trouble a few hours earlier.

Debbie crawled through a window to get inside the condo. Almost immediately, four police officers from Tijuana showed up. They asked for Paula by name. Debbie was immediately suspicious:

“A little later, Mario’s girlfriend comes just waltzing in the house. Like nothing was wrong. We asked her where Mario was. She said she didn’t know.”

Investigators exhuming the casket for a third time

The body was exhumed for a third autopsy

Two hours after Paula returned, a group of detectives arrived looking for a relative of Mario’s.  Joe still had no idea that his brother had been arrested. The detectives informed him that his brother Mario was dead.

“I was hoping they had made a mistake and I was just in disbelief that this could be happening.”

Detectives took Joe to identify Mario’s body. When he got there, he noticed that Mario was not wearing a shirt. The detectives claimed that Mario used his shirt to kill himself. Joe didn’t believe it:

“I’m said, ‘Oh no, you can’t kill yourself with a sweater.’ So I asked, ‘Wasn’t anybody in the jail that would have stopped him from doing this?’ He said ‘No, they were all sleeping.’ Four guys sleeping at 5:30 in the afternoon? I just couldn’t believe that.”

Mario Amado died three months before his 30th birthday. The Mexican authorities refused to release his body until after their autopsy. Joe was forced to return to the United States without his brother. Within a week, the Mexican autopsy was complete. It listed the cause of death as “a loss of oxygen to the brain,” the result of Mario hanging himself. Joe believed that was ridiculous and contacted Congressman Howard Berman, who did some digging:

“The Mexican autopsy confirmed the report of the jailers in Tijuana, that Mario Amado had hung himself with his own sweater. This is the oldest excuse for a jail murder, that the prisoner hung himself.”

As soon as Mario’s body was returned to the United States, Joe hired a pathologist to do a second autopsy. This examination revealed internal injuries to Mario’s liver, strong evidence he had been punched in the upper abdomen. The report stated that with such injuries, “the victim would not likely have been able to hang himself.”

Ultimately, the Los Angeles County coroner reviewed both the American and Mexican autopsy reports. He determined that Mario Amado had probably been murdered.  There is another disturbing aspect to this case. Mexican authorities violated International agreements by not contacting the U.S. consulate as quickly as possible following Mario’s death. Congressman Berman suspected a cover up:

“The people involved in this incident did not want authorities coming quickly to the scene of the crime.  They wanted the period of time to elapse. They hoped that Joe Amado would forget about it, that his brother was dead, and that he’d go back to the United States and drop the whole issue.”

Joe Amado remains determined to find the person or persons behind his brother’s death.


Congressman Berman wrote to the President of Mexico and eventually got the case opened. Mario’s body was exhumed. This time, a new autopsy found enough evidence to call the death a murder. Soon after, a Mexican police officer was arrested, tried and convicted of Mario’s murder. However, his conviction was overturned four months later and he was released.

To date there are no new suspects and the case is still unsolved.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season five with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. Unsolved

    I don’t think he was killed by that policeman, he was “planted”. It was usual to convict innocent people and charge them for crimes they did not commit, here in Mexico, hence the short time in jail, just an arrangement with higher rank chiefs, if they dont accept those short sentences, they were disappeared together with their families…that was frecuent especially during Salinas de Gortari terrible government (we call him here Innombrable, something like The Unmentionable). I guess at the end, all this matter was solved just so theyd stop bothering the government with “just a case of jail murder”. I read somewhere in the transcription of the trial, he wasnt even on duty that day. Im so sorry for their family loss, but I guess they have the wrong man, and still an unsolved mistery…just like many others here….


  2. thinkingoutloud

    maybe paula is involved. they were constantly arguing and on top of it her boyfriend gets arrested and she doesn’t seem to care…she didn’t let his brother know he was in jail nor did she even go down to the police station. the fact that her real name isn’t used in the story too is suspicious. the wording in the story too ‘provided the condo’ is weird. it doesn’t say rented/bought the condo but provided. and on top of all that, mario was so upset from the fight that he wanted to leave, paula definitely had some doing in this situation but we don’t know what


  3. Anonymous

    It was murder, get real


  4. Anonymous

    He was drunk, angry from arguing with his girlfriend and jailed without being charged of a crime. He probably got loud with the police who beat him, accidentally killed him, realized he wasn’t a local and was actually a U.S. citizen and covered it up.


  5. Anonymous

    it could be ‘Paula’, or one of his cellmates. this is clearly murder.


  6. Black Bieber

    I believe Mario Amado was murdered in a jail cell by that Mexican Police Officer that got off after 4 months (I felt he should’ve gotten much more time for the crime). Anyway, I think other officers &/or a cell mate could’ve also murdered Mario. Even though Paula acted strangely, I don’t think she had anything to do with his murder. I mean it would be impossible for her to be at the holding cell when the Mexican police only arrested Mario, assuming Mexico is like the United States and have separate prisons for Men & Women. Plus, looking at the reenactment, I don’t think Paula would be willing (or able) to visit Mario in prison on the same day.


    • concerned

      I agree with you a 100%
      The police officer did it or he could have participated with the other inmates and covered it up.


  7. Blue bird

    Well I Think He Was Murdered There Is No Way He Committed Suicide!


  8. Anonymous

    or paula is a murder allong.


  9. Ethan D. Tejeda

    Why didn’t Paula immediately say something, when Joe and Debbie arrived back at condo re:Mario’s arrest? Clearly, that would have been very upsetting to any “normal” individual. How long did Paula and Mario date? Did Paula know others in Mexico? Could she speak Spainish?


  10. Amanda

    Mario Amado was my uncle.I grew up going to his home in North Hollywood.My uncle was a caring loving man who was murdered by the Mexican Police. Jose Antonio Verduzco Flores the officer who was charged with his murder should have been prosecuted to the fullest and should have not been released after four months after his arrest.I will never go to Mexico because of my uncle being murder there.My family and I will never forget my uncle Mario.I love you Tio.


    • concerned

      I am so sorry for your loss and you are right the police officer done it and the inmates had something to do with it as well but baby you have two justices in this world on earth and after death


    • Anonymous

      I could tell just from looking at his picture that he didn’t kill himself,a sweet good person resonates from it. I hope your family finds justice, rest assured that I too will never visit Mexico, too many wild stories of murders and corruption. It is sad for the good-hearted locals though, who live with such things daily.


  11. Anthony

    I wonder what Mario and his girlfriend were arguing about that had him so upset the first time that he wanted to leave. The next time him and Paula argue he’s arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Apparently he hung himself with his sweater in his cell while every one else was taking a siesta. Can’t help but feel Paula knows a lot more than she should about this


leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.