An eight-year-old girl, Aranza Maria Ochoa Lopez, who went missing in 2018 has been found safe and sound in Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on Wednesday, March 8. Aranza was abducted at the age of four by her biological mother, Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, from Vancouver, in the US state of Washington. Lopez-Lopez took Aranza during a supervised visit on October 25, 2018, from a shopping mall in Vancouver, Washington. She fled with her daughter and an accomplice in a stolen vehicle after asking to take her child to the toilet.
Aranza had been in foster care due to reports that her mother had abused her. The search for her was relentless, with the FBI and other agencies working tirelessly to locate her for over four years. In September 2019, Lopez-Lopez was arrested in Puebla, Mexico, and later pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree custodial interference in 2021, landing her a 20-month prison sentence. However, throughout the entire ordeal, Aranza remained missing.
The FBI had suspected that Aranza had been taken to Mexico and offered a $10k (£8.37k) reward for any information leading to her recovery. The authorities have yet to disclose further details about her discovery, including how she was tracked down and who the child was with when she was found. Mexican authorities, working in collaboration with FBI special agents, were responsible for safely recovering Aranza in February 2023 in Michoacán, a state in western Mexico.
Richard A. Collodi, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, expressed his relief at the news, saying, “For more than four years, the FBI and our partners did not give up on Aranza.” The FBI will continue to support Aranza as she adjusts to life back in America. “Our concern now will be supporting Aranza as she begins her reintegration into the US,” Collodi added.
This discovery has brought a sense of relief and closure to the community, who have been following Aranza’s story for the past four years. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of never giving up hope and continuing to work towards the safe return of missing persons.