A mother who allegedly kidnapped her 5-year-old daughter during a supervised visit at Vancouver Mall nearly a year ago and took her to Mexico appeared Friday morning in Clark County Superior Court.
Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, 22, is facing charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, motor vehicle theft, second-degree identity theft and first-degree custodial interference — after a year on the run in Mexico.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said Friday he does not have information on the whereabouts of Lopez-Lopez’s daughter, Aranza Ochoa-Lopez.
Judge Daniel Stahnke granted Vu’s request to postpone setting bail in Lopez-Lopez’s case.
Vu said Lopez-Lopez was apprehended in Mexico because of the efforts of local and federal law enforcement. He said Lopez-Lopez is reportedly involved in organized crime in Mexico, so she may have access to money for release. He argued that is problematic as she poses a flight risk.
A Spanish interpreter accompanied Lopez-Lopez during Friday’s court hearing. Lopez-Lopez told the judge she wanted a court-appointed attorney.
An arraignment hearing is set for Oct. 11.
Aranza had been in the custody of the state when she was abducted. She was placed in foster care in 2017 following founded complaints of physical abuse by Lopez-Lopez. The girl was reportedly covered in large bruises, and Lopez-Lopez was deemed a danger based on the history of abuse, her lack of participation in a mental health assessment and her erratic behavior. She was granted twice-weekly supervised visitation, according to search warrant affidavits.
Lopez-Lopez allegedly kidnapped her daughter Oct. 25 after asking permission to take the child to the restroom at the mall during a Child Protective Services supervised visit, the search warrant affidavits say. She fled with the girl to a stolen vehicle, where an accomplice waited.
Erick Garcia-Valdovinos, 19; Francisco Javier Hernandez-Reyes, 19; Sherri Franchesca Trigueros, 17; and Alejandro Xulu-Sop, 16, were arrested in connection with the child abduction and kidnapping of a Centralia man, whose car was stolen and used in the plot, according to court records.
About two weeks before the abduction, Lopez-Lopez threw a party at her apartment. She told her friends she was going to lose custody of her daughter and wanted to abduct her from Child Protective Services. The group agreed to help, search warrant affidavits state.
A week before the plan was to be carried out, Lopez-Lopez contacted her aunt in Mexico and said she was going to take Aranza from CPS and cross the border, the affidavit says.
Initially, the plan did not include the kidnapping of Jose Orellana-Gomez, who dated Lopez-Lopez in December 2017. However, the day before the child abduction, someone punctured a tire on her vehicle, and she needed a vehicle to carry out her plan. She also reportedly said she didn’t want to drive a car registered in her name. Lopez-Lopez contacted the group via Snapchat and told them of her plan to steal Orellana-Gomez’s car, the search warrant affidavits state.
Orellana-Gomez told investigators that Lopez-Lopez lured him to her Vancouver apartment under the premise she needed a ride to Centralia. But when he got to the apartment, several people — armed with kitchen knives and wearing masks — entered the apartment, pushed him down, bound him with duct tape and carried him to a bedroom where he was taped to an office chair, according to court records.
They blindfolded and gagged him, and placed headphones over his ears. The assailants demanded his car, a red Chevrolet Cobalt, and told him they would only need it for a few hours. They also took his debit card and demanded the PIN, court documents say.
Xulu-Sop’s criminal case is still moving through Clark County Juvenile Court. Garcia-Valdovinos and Hernandez-Reyes were previously sentenced to 17 months in prison. Trigueros was sentenced to 129 weeks in a juvenile facility.