Attorneys for family of Shanquella Robinson accuse FBI of 'not doing all that they could do' in death case

After the FBI solved the case of four Americans kidnapped in Mexico within days, Robinson’s family is questioning why they're waiting for answers four months later.

Shanquella Robinson.
Shanquella Robinson. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: family handout [2])

More than four months after the death of Shanquella Robinson, a 25-year-old Charlotte, N.C., woman who died under mysterious circumstances while on a trip with six friends to Mexico, lawyers for the family have accused the FBI of not doing enough to arrest a suspect in the case, despite a bevy of mounting evidence.

“The FBI's response in the current case demonstrates that the U.S. authorities and the federal police agencies are not doing all that they could do in Shanquella’s case,” attorney Sue-Ann Robinson (who has no relation to the family) told Yahoo News.

“There seems to be no activity on behalf of Shanquella,” attorney Ben Crump added.

Robinson and Crump, who together represent the family, say the federal agency’s response to four Americans kidnapped in Mexico last week and its subsequent fervor to solve the case, including a $50,000 reward offering, are evidence of protocol in place that isn’t being followed in the same way for Shanquella Robinson.

“Obviously they know how to have that high level of intervention with the appropriate Mexican authorities, because they did it immediately [for the recently kidnapped Americans],” attorney Robinson said. “Our clients are very understanding of the level of complication in a transnational criminal case. But there's a protocol, so why isn't the protocol being used?”

The FBI has said its investigation is ongoing but did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo News.

Details about Robinson’s death

On Oct. 28, Robinson traveled to the resort city of San José del Cabo, Mexico, with a group of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. Less than 24 hours later she was found dead. Initially, her friends told her mother that Robinson had died of alcohol poisoning, but the family later received an autopsy report from the Mexican Secretariat of Health and learned she had suffered a broken neck and a cracked spine. No mention of alcohol was included in the report. In a death certificate obtained by Queen City News in Charlotte, Robinson's death was attributed to a “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation,” meaning that her first vertebra was loosened or detached from the base of her skull.

Shanquella Robinson.
Shanquella Robinson. (Via Instagram)

Nearly a month later, a blogger in North Carolina published video footage that he alleged shows a woman attacking Robinson. Robinson’s mother recognized the other people in the video as the ones who traveled with her daughter, and she believes it was captured on the trip to Cabo.

In the 18 weeks since Robinson’s death, the family says so much has happened and yet little movement in the case has taken place. In addition to the video coming to light, Mexican authorities issued an arrest warrant in the case in November for the crime of femicide, a form of gender-based violence. They also sought to extradite an American suspect to the country to face charges. But since then, no one has been held accountable. Attorney Robinson said she has since traveled to Mexico for a better understanding of the disconnect and was informed by the Mexican attorney general’s office that this case is a “high priority” and they’re willing to turn it over to the U.S., but they claim it’s the FBI that has been stagnant.

“The FBI can issue the same reward they just did if they're seeking information,” she said. “They can say, ‘Hey, we're offering a $50,000 reward for anybody who has information on this case.’ Because six travel-mates are at large. They're not in custody anywhere. They sleep in their beds at night.”

It’s a predicament that has left a family distraught.

"No one has been arrested," Robinson's mother, Sallamondra, said at a press conference last Friday. "The people who knew what happened to my daughter are living their lives. They have returned to work, and my family is left to wait and wait to beg for answers."

Why a prosecution may take time

Donald Corbett, an associate law professor at North Carolina Central University who specializes in constitutional law, understands the growing frustrations but believes a transnational prosecution of the person who killed Robinson is a bit more complex.

“There isn't a timeline where these things have to happen within 30 days or 60 days or 90 days, but the problem as they're going through whatever their process is, in the meantime, the family's sitting there and they're not getting any answers from the government,” Corbett said.

Irving Barrios, attorney general of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and Luis Rodríguez Bucio, undersecretary of public security, speak on Tuesday about the kidnapping of four Americans in Matamoros, Mexico.
Irving Barrios, attorney general of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and Luis Rodríguez Bucio, undersecretary of public security, speak on Tuesday about the kidnapping of four Americans in Matamoros, Mexico. (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

It’s more than just a criminal issue, he said, adding that there are diplomatic and political aspects as well.

“Just because the extradition request is made doesn't automatically mean that person just gets shipped overseas,” Corbett said. “They will have a federal court process here in the States in which that person has an opportunity to challenge the extradition. And then the court system here will figure out whether they think it's a valid extradition request. This is all going to take time, and obviously when you're dealing with grief, the time only makes the grief worse in some ways.”

The family has elevated their demands for justice by calling on President Biden and the State Department to intervene in the matter. It’s something Crump says may be the only way to get actual movement on the case, expressing frustration that the opportunities that have been presented thus far have been thwarted.

“We do have direct access to officials at the White House, and we've engaged one another on the matter,” Crump said, adding that he believes the case deserves more haste because he feels a “murder” was committed. “We're calling for high-level diplomatic intervention from the president or the State Department to do what is necessary to bring justice to the family of Shanquella Robinson.”

Attorney Ben Crump.
Attorney Ben Crump. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

For some, Robinson’s story evokes feelings similar to those felt in the 2005 disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway. Holloway, who was white, was on a high school graduation trip with classmates in Aruba but never boarded her flight home. She was last seen outside a nightclub with three locals, but no one has ever been officially charged in her death. Holloway’s disappearance made international news, filling headlines for months.

But that case came before the days when social media can drive a story out of relevance just as soon as another story takes its place. It’s even more the reason that Corbett says U.S. leadership’s involvement could be key in helping move things along.

“You need someone to put an accelerant on the fire,” he said, “because at that point, if you have the president or a member of the Cabinet or high-ranking Justice officials say, ‘Hey, what's going on with this? Let's get it moving,’ I think you would see some movement.”

It’s been more than 130 days since Robinson was found dead, and according to her mother, with each passing day the anguish only grows stronger.

"I don't wish that terrible nightmare on anyone,” Sallamondra Robinson said last week.

Shanquella Robinson with her mom, Sallamondra.
Shanquella Robinson, right, with her mom, Sallamondra, at left. (Family handout)

As the number of days continues to pile up, Crump says the family and supporters are prepared to make more noise and organize even larger demonstrations at the president’s doorstep.

“We are going to look for opportunities, if there's nothing done, to have massive demonstrations to bring justice for Shanquella Robinson,” he said. “We are looking at day 200 and day 250 to organize at the White House to let them know that Shanquella Robinson's life matters and that Shanquella Robinson deserves justice.”


Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: family handout (2)