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Washington girl missing since 2018 found in Mexico: FBI

FILE – The FBI seal is displayed on a podium before a news conference at the agency’s headquarters on June 14, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

(NEXSTAR) – An 8-year-old Washington girl who had been missing for over four years was found in Mexico and safely returned to the United States in February, the FBI’s Seattle office revealed Wednesday.

Investigators say Aranza Maria Ochoa Lopez’s biological mother kidnapped her on Oct. 25, 2018 from a Vancouver, Washington shopping mall when she was 4 years old.

The FBI said that authorities in Mexico found Lopez in Michoacán, Mexico. FBI special agents brought her back to an undisclosed location in the U.S., according to a news release from the Bureau. “Aranza’s safety and privacy is of utmost importance,” the FBI added.

Investigators said they learned Lopez was in Mexico after they put out a Missing Person Poster. The FBI offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the girl’s recovery.

Lopez’s mother was taken into custody in Puebla, Mexico in 2019.

Vancouver, Washington newspaper The Columbian identified the mother as Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez. Lopez-Lopez reportedly lost custody of her daughter in 2017 after authorities confirmed complaints of physical abuse against her daughter.

In January 2021, Lopez-Lopez was sentenced to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges that included kidnapping, robbery and custodial interference, according to the newspaper.

“For more than four years, the FBI and our partners did not give up on Aranza,” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “Our concern now will be supporting Aranza as she begins her reintegration into the U.S.”

Over the years the FBI worked with a number of law enforcement agencies to track Lopez, including the FBI’s legal attaché in Mexico City; Vancouver Police Department; Washington state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families; Fiscalía General del Estado de Michoacán (FGE Michoacán); and the Instituto Nacional de Migración.


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