February 21, 2024

An American woman who was kidnapped while walking a dog in Mexico has been released after eight months

A California woman who was kidnapped while walking her dog in Mexico has been released by her captors and reunited with her family, according to federal investigators.

Monica de Leon Barba, an American who was plucked from the street in Jalisco, Mexico, in 2022, was reunited with her family, including the German shepherd she was walking on the day of the abduction, ABC news reports.

“For the first time in a long time we have good news! I need to thank everyone who helped my family and me through this whole ordeal. We can all close this chapter in our lives and work on the long road of healing ahead,” Gustavo de Leon, Miss de Leon’s brother, said in a Facebook post.

The post included a photo of him standing with his sister, who is seen flashing a peace sign.

A local television station, TV Azteca Jalisco, also reported that Gael de Leon, Ms. de Leon’s cousin, was kidnapped just hours after she was taken. However, that abduction was not confirmed by investigators and was not mentioned in any comments made by the FBI or de Leon’s family.

“For the past eight months, FBI personnel in California and Mexico have worked tirelessly with the family and partners in Mexico. We are extremely relieved and overjoyed at Monica’s safe return,” said Special Agent Robert Tripp from the San Francisco FBI Office. after releasing the women.

No arrests have been made, according to the FBI. The agency is still investigating the abductions.

“The FBI investigation is far from over, but we can work in this case now knowing that an innocent victim is reunited with her family,” said Mr. Tripp.

The agency believes Ms de Leon was the subject of a “targeted kidnapping”, with Mr Tripp noting that the kidnappers contacted her family to demand ransom money.

Shortly after the abduction the FBI offered a $40,000 reward for information leading to Miss de Leon’s recovery, and released surveillance footage showing her walking down a street with her dog just before she was abducted.

“Several suspects chased Monica and forced her into a gray Volkswagen Jetta. The suspects then drive off in three different vehicles, including the Jetta,” the FBI said in a description of the footage.

At least five suspects can be seen abducting Ms de Leon in the video. Her dog was later found wandering the streets and returned to the de Leon family.

Her father, Gustavo de Leon Sr., said his daughter was doing well despite her terrifying experience, but was unwilling to discuss what happened.

“Right now, she doesn’t even want to talk about that,” he told the New York Post. “All we can say is thank God she’s back, and try to get back to normal life as much as possible.”

Anissa Livas, a friend of Mr. de Leon, told CNN that she was “in disbelief” when she found out that the woman was back safely.

“I am very happy and joyful but I have many questions,” she said.

Ms Livas said she had a brief opportunity to speak with her friend in the days since her release.

“We exchanged ‘I love you’ in a short message on social media,” Ms Livas said. “She is slowly reaching out to her friends but she needs some space and time so we will be patient.”

She described Mr de Leon as a “chilling” person, with a personality that allows her to “make friends with anyone,” and said she is an “extremely talented photographer.”

While Ms. de Leon’s friends and family are celebrating her return, another family remains hopeful that they will be reunited with their abducted loved ones.

Maria Del Carmen Lopez, 63, was taken from her home in Mexico in February. Many of her family live in Southern California, and have worked to raise awareness about her disappearance.

Zonia Lopez, Miss Lopez’s daughter, said ABC13 that Mr. de Leon safely returns her hope of seeing her mother again. The FBI is also investigating Ms. Lopez’s kidnapping.

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