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News / Clark County News

Vancouver girl kidnapped by mother in 2018 found in Mexico, returned to U.S.

Girl's mother plead guilty to kidnapping in 2021

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: March 8, 2023, 12:55pm

A 4-year-old Vancouver girl who was kidnapped by her mother in 2018 was found last month in Mexico and returned to the United States, the FBI announced Wednesday.

Aranza Maria Ochoa Lopez, now 8, had been missing since Oct. 25 of that year. The girl’s mother, Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, had asked permission to take her to the restroom during a supervised visit at Vancouver Mall and then fled with her to a stolen vehicle, where an accomplice waited.

The FBI issued a missing person poster, and the agency later learned Aranza was taken to Mexico.

Investigators said they found Aranza in Michoacan, Mexico, and special agents escorted her back to the U.S., according to a news release from the FBI’s Seattle office. The agency said officials will not release information on her whereabouts for her safety.

“For more than four years, the FBI and our partners did not give up on Aranza,” Special Agent Richard A. Collodi said in the news release. “Our concern now will be supporting Aranza as she begins her reintegration into the U.S.”

Aranza was in the state’s custody 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 a 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 court records.

After the abduction, Lopez-Lopez was on the run in Mexico for about a year, before being arrested and extradited, The Columbian previously reported.

She pleaded guilty in January 2021 to second-degree kidnapping and robbery and first-degree custodial interference in Clark County Superior Court. She was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

At the time, Lopez-Lopez said she no longer knew where her daughter was, but the prosecution said she was helping investigators search for her. Her defense attorney said Lopez-Lopez believed the girl was safe with family, The Columbian previously reported.

Other investigating agencies included the FBI’s Legal Attache in Mexico City; Vancouver Police Department; Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families; Fiscalia General del Estado de Michoacan; and the Instituto Nacional de Migracion.