An 8-year-old girl who was abducted from Washington state nearly five years ago has been found alive in Mexico, federal authorities announced.
According to an FBI press release, Aranza Maria Ochoa Lopez, who was first reported missing in October 2018, was located last month in Michoacán, Mexico, and safely recovered by Mexican authorities. The child was then escorted back to the United States by FBI special agents.
“For more than four years, the FBI and our partners did not give up on Aranza. Our concern now will be to support Aranza as she begins her reintegration into the United States,” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, in a statement Wednesday. “Aranza’s safety and privacy are of the utmost importance. Her location in the United States is not being disclosed and no additional information will be released at this time.”
A then-4-year-old Lopez was in state custody when she was kidnapped by her biological mother, Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, during a supervised visit at the Vancouver Mall on Oct. 25, 2018, authorities said. .
Lopez-Lopez was located by Mexican authorities in Puebla, Mexico, in 2019 and arrested, but her daughter was not located at the time and was still believed to be somewhere in Mexico. Lopez-Lopez was later extradited back to Clark County, Washington, to face criminal charges.
Lopez-Lopez was initially charged with one count each of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, motor vehicle theft, second-degree identity theft and first-degree deprivation of liberty, according to a report by The Columbian. However, prosecutors reportedly agreed to “significantly reduce” the charges against her in exchange for her cooperation in finding her daughter.
Lopez-Lopez pleaded guilty in January 2021 to one count each of second-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery and first-degree larceny and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. She was also ordered to serve 18 months of probation after her release.
Aranza Lopez was initially taken into the custody of Child Protective Services in 2017 after the agency received several “substantiated complaints” that she was being physically abused by Lopez-Lopez, The Columbian reported. CPS agents reportedly said they found Aranza Lopez “covered in large bruises.”
In addition to physically abusing her daughter, Lopez-Lopez also refused to participate in a mandatory mental health evaluation and exhibited erratic behavior, leading the state to consider her a danger to Aranza Lopez.
Lopez-Lopez was allowed two supervised visits with her daughter a week, but allegedly defected to CPS after asking to take the girl to one of the restrooms at the Vancouver Mall, according to the Columbian. She allegedly fled the mall in a stolen vehicle.
After her disappearance, the FBI offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Aranza Lopez’s location.
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