On March 22 in Greater Mexico City, ten years ago, 4-year-old Paulette Gebara Farah was found to be missing when the little girl’s nanny went to go wake her up and found an empty bed. Where did she go? The family lived in a high-rise apartment — there was no way she could have escaped through a window. There were no signs of forced entry, and the family owned two dogs who did not once bark at night. It was impossible for anyone to come in or out without someone noticing. And yet, Paulette had vanished. Netflix’s newest based-on-a-true crime miniseries, The Search, which began streaming June 12, follows the unusual case of Paulette Gebara Farah’s disappearance, and the events that followed.
While the Netflix series uses actors to portray Paulette's story, here's what really happened.
The Controversy Around Paulette's Case
The Attorney General of the State, Alberto Bazbaz quickly became involved, which set off a nine-day intensive search and investigation. This caused controversy in and of itself, since many children went missing in Mexico and nobody "lifted a finger" — but when this girl from a rich family vanished, the police department used all their resources to find her. Posters of Paulette were posted everywhere in Mexico, and the case quickly escalated into a total media circus, as documented by the LA Times.
Paulette's Parents Were Suspects
The first suspect was Paulette’s mother, Lizette, per a CNN story from 2010. Paulette had physical disabilities and required two nannies and expensive medical treatments. It was suggested that perhaps she had become too much of a financial burden, and the parents may have resorted to killing their daughter. But the family lived in the affluent Huixquilucan district in the State of Mexico and made good money. Paulette’s father, Mauricio, worked in real estate, and Lizette was an attorney.
Soon after Lizette made public appearances on TV, as shown in reporting by the Los Angeles Times, asking the culprit to come forward, the police and public turned on her. Bazbaz announced to the public that the parents’ stories (along with the nannies’) had inconsistencies and they were now being held in custody, according to the same report from the Los Angeles Times.
There were also undercover recordings between Lizette, Mauricio, and their other daughter which "led investigators to suspect [Lizette]," according to CNN's report. In one of the recordings between Lizette and her other daughter, it sounded like Lizette told her not to admit anything to the investigators, otherwise she'd get in trouble, according to Mexican news outlet Zocalo. Lizette claimed this was taken out of context.
Both of Paulette’s nannies, Ericka and Martha Casimiro, claimed that the girl’s parents seemed unconcerned while everyone was frantically searching for her. Even Lizette’s media appearances made people uncomfortable — her cold nature made people wonder if she was the one was responsible for the death of her daughter. It was revealed that Lizette could have had a personality or mental disorder. "She has always remained very distant in matters of affection and emotional attachment. She has lied. In short, there are characteristics that speak of a mental disorder." Sandra Yadeum, a legal psychiatric expert working with investigators, said, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
What Happened To Paulette?
On March 31, 2010, Paulette’s body was finally found. It was tucked away at the foot of the bed. The autopsy, as reported by CNN, ruled that Paulette’s death was an accident. Paulette had seemingly rolled to the foot of the bed and accidentally fell and lodged herself in the gap between the mattress and footboard. She then suffocated to death. According to reports at the time, the autopsy showed Paulette died via “asphyxiation that obstructed the respiratory airways and compressed the abdominal thorax.”
There were no drugs or toxic substances found in her body, nor any signs of physical abuse, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Moreover, Bazbaz believed that Paulette's body hadn't been moved. "The position the child was in when she was found was the same as the position she was in when she died. That is, the original and final position are the same,” he claimed in the Union Tribune.
But conspiracy theories around Paulette's cause of death still abound. Someone noticed a pair of pajamas on top of the bed while Lizette was giving a TV interview before Paulette was found. When Paulette was discovered, she was wearing those exact same pajamas. It could be true that the girl had multiple pairs of the exact same pajamas, but the coincidence was still eerie. The interview can be seen in a widely-circulated video, but I can't endorse viewing it, as it shows a disturbing image of Paulette.
Conspiracy theorists focused on how everyone managed to miss Paulette for nine whole days. The police even brought in search dogs at one point. BBC reported that over 100 people had been in her room, searching for her. More disturbingly, friends and family had slept in her bed during that time period, per the Union Tribune's report, and didn’t notice anything. Apparently, the only explanation given was that there was enough bedding and blankets to mask the smell of the decomposing body for nine days. But the nannies were adamant that they would have noticed disheveled bedding or some kind of evidence that the child had fallen in between the bed and frame.
Is Paulette's Case Closed?
The public found it hard to believe that authorities had investigated Paulette’s room multiple times and came up with nothing. Many still believed, because of the negative publicity and Bazbaz’s initial inclination to point fingers at Lizette and Mauricio, that the parents were allegedly involved in their little girl’s death somehow. In fact, Lizette and Mauricio ended up turning on each other publicly. Per Boston.com, Mauricio stated, "The only thing I can say is that for me, it wasn't an accident. I can only speak for myself." In a separate interview with Televisa, Lizette cried and said she didn't understand why her husband would be suspicious of her, and claimed investigators had possibly manipulated him to turn on her. "They have played a lot with our minds. Maybe he didn't have enough trust in me, because I have never doubted him," Lizette claimed, per the Boston.com report.
In May of that year, Bazbaz resigned over how poorly the investigation was handled, according to BBC. And in May of 2017, Paulette was cremated, eliminating much of the physical evidence in the case.
The Search takes this story and poses many of these same questions, which will undoubtedly make viewers ask how much more there was to Paulette’s story.