8-Year-Old Girl Found and Safely Returned to US After Abduction in 2018
On Wednesday, the FBI announced that an 8-year-old girl from Washington state who went missing in 2018 has been safely returned to the United States after being found in Mexico. Aranza Maria Ochoa Lopez had been last seen with her biological mother at a mall in Vancouver, Washington when she was 4 years old.
Aranza had been in the state’s custody when she was abducted. In 2017, Lopez-Lopez was found to have committed physical abuse, resulting in her being placed in foster care. The girl had reportedly been covered in large bruises, and Lopez-Lopez was deemed a danger based on her history of abuse, her lack of participation in a mental health assessment and her erratic behavior. Court records show that she was given permission to have twice-weekly supervised visits.
Following the release of a missing person poster by the FBI, it was later discovered Aranza had been taken to Mexico. Her mother, Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, was arrested in September 2019 in Puebla, a city in east-central Mexico, as the search for the girl continued.
In February 2023, Mexican authorities found and safely recovered Aranza in Michoacán, Mexico. FBI special agents then escorted the child back to the United States. In order to protect her safety and privacy, her location here will remain undisclosed.
In 2021, Lopez-Lopez pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree custodial interference, and was subsequently sentenced to 20 months in prison, as reported by The Columbian. The FBI’s legal attaché in Mexico City, the Vancouver Police Department, the Washington state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the Fiscalía General del Estado de Michoacán (FGE Michoacán), and the Instituto Nacional de Migración were all included in the investigation.
A reward of up to $10,000 was being offered by the FBI for information that would lead to the recovery of Aranza. Most abducted children are taken by family members, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with only 1 per cent of missing children cases involving abductions by non-family members.
Aranza has now been returned to the States and the FBI will continue to support the girl as she settles back into American life.
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