Longform

Over the Line

Page 6 of 6

It was impossible for Paula to come up with that kind of cash, considering she had just about emptied her savings to transport Elisabeth's body back across the border and have her buried at Houston's Forest Park Cemetery.

Since the investigation seemed to have stalled, the Mandala family has dealt with Elisabeth's death differently. Her older brother Michael would only briefly speak to the Press, but said, "We understand that things take time, and we're just waiting for it to work itself out."

Paula has relied on church to remain strong. She says, "I still have another little daughter I have to think about."

Adriana says she hasn't come to terms with the murder, but sometimes she thinks back to the simple things, like never hugging or dancing with Elisabeth again. Then she says she'll have a dream about her sister. She thinks that eventually, Elisabeth will reveal to her in that way what happened in Mexico.

"Maybe the police won't ever do anything, but I feel that what goes around comes around," Adriana says. "I'm not talking about death — I don't want anyone else to die — but maybe whoever did it will have psychological problems."

Adriana has convinced herself that whatever drew Elisabeth to Mexico, it was a one-time thing. There was Italy and college, and Elisabeth still had to get through a last month of high school. Before the sisters had their ­falling-out, Elisabeth asked to use Adriana's cap and gown, and she even wanted to wear one of Adriana's dresses for her upcoming prom.

It's possible that the family will never know what exactly happened, much less who killed her. It's Mexico, after all, where even an American teenager can become a faceless casualty, lost in a place where she never belonged.

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight