|Apr 4th, 2006, 12:40 AM||#1 (permalink)|
DI Extreme Addict
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Raleigh, NC
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Maria Isabel Miranda didn't hesitate to call police when her son was kidnapped.
She might have saved her breath.
Authorities widely acknowledge that most kidnappings in Mexico aren't reported, for fear of official corruption, negligence or plain incompetence that endanger the victims' lives. Miranda soon learned she would have to solve the case herself.
What she did next nearly cost her life.
Tackling high rates of kidnappings and other crime is a key issue in Mexico's July 2 presidential election campaign, and leading candidates have promised tough measures.
Kidnappings flourished in the early 1990s, when criminal organizations researched wealthy victims and demanded millions of dollars for their safe return.
Today, with most organized networks broken, experts say most kidnappings are conducted by loosely organized gangs -- drug traffickers, common criminals, even middle-class professionals -- who nab everyone from small business owners to maids.
And while government statistics show kidnapping declined to 315 reported cases in 2005 from more than 500 in 2004, the private Citizen Council for Public Safety says kidnappings have actually risen, to the point that Mexico, along with Haiti, rivals Colombia as one of the world's leaders in kidnappings.
Miranda's nightmare began July 11, 2005, when she did not hear from her son, Hugo Alberto Wallace, a 36-year-old fumigation company owner. He had a date that night with a woman identified as Juana Hilda Gonzalez, and failed to return home.
"I was terribly alarmed because he never did that," Miranda told The Associated Press in an interview.
Miranda filed missing person reports with city, state and federal police, but was told they wouldn't investigate.
So she divided the megalopolis of 20 million people into sections, recruited 40 friends and relatives, and they searched street by street for her son's SUV.
Amazingly, they found it the day after her son Wallace vanished, not far from the shopping center where he had planned to take Gonzalez to a movie.
A neighbor had witnessed a man being taken from her son's car into a nearby building. Residents said a man with distinctive tattoos entered the building as well, and they suspected -- from the way he walked and openly carried weapons -- that he was an officer of the judicial police, a detective squad notorious for associations with kidnappers.
About a month later, Miranda received an anonymous letter saying her son had been kidnapped and she would have to pay ransom to get him back. She wouldn't say how much the demand was, but said she never paid.
Instead, she returned to the police to file a kidnapping complaint. Again, the police were no help.
The Federal Attorney General's Office, which is now handling the case, declined repeated requests for comment about the case.
"All the time we were calling, asking them to investigate," Miranda said. "We'd bring them what information we had, but they just ignored us."
Police agencies denied knowing any officer fitting the neighbors' description. So Miranda went south to the state of Morelos, where she learned that Cesar Freyre Morales, a former judicial police officer in the Morelos attorney general's office, had tattoos of his mother on his right arm and flames on his left.
Using the phone book and talking with neighbor after neighbor, she found the house Freyre kept with Juana Hilda Gonzalez, the woman her son was supposed to have taken to the movie. She learned that her son had been introduced to Gonzalez by a man named Jacobo Tagle, and that Freyre was involved with another woman, Keopski Daniela Salazar, a Mexico City restaurant hostess.
Miranda began to follow the men and women herself -- a desperate act that paid off in January.
Eavesdropping while eating at Salazar's restaurant, she overheard the hostess saying she would leave with Freyre for El Salvador in two days.
"That's when I made the decision to catch Cesar," Miranda said.
She and her brother followed Salazar home, found Freyre and demanded that he tell her where her son was, Miranda said. Freyre pulled a gun and the brother knocked him to the ground. Somehow, Miranda managed to flag down a passing Mexico City police car, she said.
As he was being led away in handcuffs, Freyre vowed "it wasn't over, that there were still a lot of people in his gang and that he was going to kill not only me, but my granddaughter and my daughter," Miranda said.
But Miranda was just getting started.
In February, she paid for three billboard advertisements featuring Freyre's mugshot and this message: "If you have been a victim of this criminal, report him." The billboards included the telephone number of federal authorities. Her idea was to persuade other potential victims to come forward.
Weeks later, with Freyre, Gonzalez and Salazar under house arrest, she put up new displays, offering $23,000 for Tagle's arrest. Then still more billboards, offering $4,570 dollars for the arrest of two other Freyre associates, Tony Castillo and Brenda Quevado.
Castillo was promptly detained, and days later, Freyre was moved from house arrest to a maximum security prison on unrelated charges; both men are now being investigated for kidnapping and weapons violations. Gonzalez and Salazar remain under house arrest awaiting possible charges. And last month, prosecutors began protecting Miranda with two armed bodyguards.
Miranda believes others were involved in her son's kidnapping, and won't give up until everyone is jailed and she finds her son -- even if it means just recovering his body. She said a police official assured her, without offering evidence, that her son was dead. No body has been found.
"Of course I'm afraid," she said. "But nothing is going to stop me, not even fear. I've got to have justice for what they did to my son."
|Apr 4th, 2006, 12:54 AM||#2 (permalink)|
DI Extreme Addict
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Wow, they should just give her a gun and uniform. Impressive.
"He who has conquered fear and doubt has conquered failure" - As a Man Thinketh
"I'd rather live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep." - Italian Proverb
|Apr 4th, 2006, 06:59 AM||#4 (permalink)|
DI Chronic Addict
Join Date: Oct 2002
If it was me, (and I could actually see enough to drive) I would just run them over.
|Apr 4th, 2006, 04:45 PM||#6 (permalink)|
DI Extreme Addict
|Apr 4th, 2006, 10:08 PM||#8 (permalink)|
Regular Forum Addict
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Ukrainian in America
wheres the KGB to keep the population quiet and clean?
Propagate our ideals with electronic music!
No vocals means equality of sound and rights of people!
No prejudice or hate!
Rave for the motherland!!!