Espinosa was found in an apartment with four female victims, and all of them had been shot in the head, authorities said on August 2. One of the victims, Nadia Vera, was a friend of Espinosa’s and a student activist in Xalapa, the Veracruz online publication Plumas Libres reported.
Espinosa fled Veracruz state and arrived in Mexico City in June 2015, he told CPJ in an interview that month. He worked for the local news agency AVC Noticias, the national newsweekly Proceso, and photo agency Cuartoscuro and often covered local activist causes, local journalists told CPJ.
Espinosa had been threatened repeatedly in the past few years. He told CPJ in June that he fled Veracruz after he noticed people outside his home in Xalapa three separate times who gave him intimidating glances and gestures. He said that in 2013, he was among the journalists attacked by police during a September 2013 eviction of protesting teachers and students. In 2012, he said, an unidentified man “grabbed me by the shirt, threw me up against a metal curtain and told me, ‘Stop taking photos … if you don’t want to end up like Regina Martínez.'”
Espinosa had clashed in previous years with authorities in Veracruz. He told the news website Sin Embargo that local authorities had been angered by a front-page photo he had taken of Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte de Ochoa that was published in Proceso on February 15, 2014, under the headline “Veracruz: Lawless State.”
Before fleeing to Mexico City, Espinosa was very active within a group of Veracruz journalists who called on state authorities to investigate crimes against murdered journalists, a Mexican journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity told CPJ. “He became one of the leaders of the group and represented them in meeting with authorities,” the journalist said.
On August 4, authorities in Mexico City arrested Daniel Pacheco Gutiérrez, who they said was a suspect in connection with the killing, prosecutor Rodolfo Rios Garza announced. Investigators said his fingerprints had been found at the crime scene and matched to a database which showed he had a criminal record for rape and assault, the BBC reported.
According to press reports, Pacheco said he had been in the apartment but that he hadn’t participated in the murders. In a statement he gave to prosecutors, he said he had been invited by an individual named José Abraham to meet a Colombian woman he knew in that neighborhood. On August 11, the national daily Reforma reported that Pacheco had identified two accomplices: Abraham, who Pacheco said was a former Mexico City police officer and guarded parked cars in the streets in exchange for money, and an individual known as Omar, who he said was a juggler who performed at traffic intersections.
Pacheco was accused of murder, femicide, and aggravated robbery. The other two men were fugitives.
When interrogated by a Mexican judge, Pacheco alleged he had been tortured and beaten, the local press reported. A photograph of Pacheco in custody, which was released to the press, showed the left side of his face swollen, according to press reports.
Investigators said they had not disregarded any motive in the multiple homicide, including Espinosa’s work. But local journalists and activists said that authorities were not looking into the photographer’s work or the threats he had received. They also pointed out inconsistencies in the investigation: Investigators said the murders took place sometime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., but Espinosa’s final text messages, obtained by The Associated Press, show that he was still alive at 2:13 p.m.
Veracruz is one of the most dangerous states for the press in Mexico, according to CPJ research. Espinosa never approached the federal protection mechanism for at-risk journalists, a federal government official, who asked to remain anonymous, told CPJ the month the journalist was killed.