By Sarah Morland
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico City's mayor renewed her criticism of a nearby state prosecutor for allegedly covering up the killing of a 27-year-old woman, a day after federal prosecutors issued an expert opinion saying the victim died from a blow to the head and not a result of alcohol intoxication as originally reported.
"Today, I again accuse Morelos' state prosecutor of covering up Ariadna's femicide," she said, adding that punishment must be meted out for those who "willfully concealed the truth." Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico's sprawling capital city, wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.
She also called for the prosecutor's office to be sanctioned, without elaborating further.
Ariadna Lopez's body was found off a Morelos highway in late October a day after she was reported missing from Mexico City some 50 miles (80 km) away, in a case that sparked mass outrage.
The case highlights Mexico's longstanding problem with deadly violence against women, including femicide, or the murder of women or girls on basis of their gender.
Morelos prosecutors within days concluded she died when her oxygen supply was cut off as a result of alcohol intoxication, despite family members pointing to visible bruises on Lopez's body.
A second autopsy from Mexico City forensic experts in November concluded blunt force trauma was responsible for her death, while an investigation found footage from the apartment where she was last seen that showed a person carrying a woman's body to a car. Two suspects were later detained by police.
Federal prosecutors on Monday issued an expert opinion concluding Lopez died from a blow to the head, saying they could not support the assessment of the Morelos prosecutor's office.
In a Tuesday statement, the prosecutor's office in Morelos defended its autopsy and dismissed federal officials' conclusion that head trauma was the cause of death as "a respectable opinion" but not legally binding.
It added it had not been formally asked to provide information, but highlighted that its forensic team was made of "professional women" who took gender into account.
The prosecutor's office in Morelos told Reuters on Tuesday denied cover-up allegations, adding it was up to the judicial system to decide which autopsy should prevail.
The federal prosecutors advised that a criminal investigation should continue under Mexico City authorities.
Morelos is known for high rates of violence against women in a country which averages about 20 women killed each day. According to government data, very few cases result in sentences, while many of those that do cite lesser offenses that do not conclude the killing was intentional.
More than 70 cases of femicide were reported last December alone, according to official data.
(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Aurora Ellis)