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May 11, 2011 permalink
A foster girl was abducted at gunpoint from her Las Vegas foster home. Three-year-old Carla Espinosa-Alvarez was found a few days later with her real mother in New Mexico.
3-year-old Carla Espinosa-Alvarez kidnapped from Las Vegas foster home
(CBS/KLAS) NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. - North Las Vegas police are looking for two suspects who kidnapped 3-year-old Carla Espinosa-Alvarez from her foster home Sunday evening.
Carla's foster mother told police that around 9:30 p.m. a masked man and woman entered her home, and that the man held her at gunpoint while the female suspect searched the home, specifically looking for Carla. She found the child upstairs and carried her out of the house, Carla's foster mother told CBS affiliate KLAS.
"At this point in the investigation, we believe that she is endangered," said North Las Vegas Police Officer Chrissie Coon. "We do know these suspects to be armed, and we do ask the public if they have information regarding the whereabouts, or if they possibly see this little girl out there, (they) have to call authorities or call 911. Don't try to contact these people on their own."
Detectives want to speak with Carla's biological mother, Maria Espinosa-Alvarez, 30, who is believed to live in Mexico and has made threats to take Carla out of the foster home. Investigators are not calling the biological mother a suspect, reports the station.
"At this point, they're exhausting all of their resources and all the possibilities that could surround how this young girl was taken," said Coon to the station.
The suspects are described as Hispanic, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black hair and brown eyes. They were dressed in all black with brown masks or bandanas over their faces. They both spoke fluent Spanish.
Carla was last seen wearing a pink short sleeved pajama shirt and pink pajama pants. She is 3 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 50 pounds, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Four of Carla's top front teeth are silver-capped.
Anyone with information about this abduction is asked to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Source: CBS News
The mother says the kidnap-at-gunpoint story was a hoax, she paid the foster mom to hand Carla to her across the border. With today's low-cost international transportation, there are lots of cases like this in which mother and child are citizens of different countries. All too often this results in their permanent separation, with the child raised by strangers. In the Carla case, American authorities are relentless in separating mother and child, only the Mexican authorities show any respect for the bond between them.
County officials in international custody battle over 3-year-old
One Sunday evening, a 3-year-old girl disappeared from her North Las Vegas foster home and reappeared in Mexico the next morning.
Three months later, the police investigation has stalled, and Carla Espinosa-Alvarez, a U.S. citizen and legal ward of Clark County, is caught in the middle of an international custody battle that is moving at a snail's pace.
"It's an open case, but there's no effort being put forth right now," North Las Vegas police Sgt. Tim Bedwell said. "We're at a standstill."
How Carla even arrived in Mexico remains a mystery to police, with conflicting stories yet to be sorted out.
Marisol Losoya, Carla's foster mother, told police a masked couple tricked their way into her home on May 8, held her at gunpoint and snatched the girl.
But Maria Espinosa-Alvarez, Carla's biological mother, told Mexican authorities the kidnapping story had been a hoax, that she had paid Losoya to bring Carla across the border.
Bedwell said detectives have been unable to interview Espinosa-Alvarez in Mexico.
"We'd still like to speak to the mother to get her side of the story," Bedwell said. "We're looking at something here that might not even be an outright kidnapping, I don't think. It could be more of a custodial issue."
The custody dispute first arose after Espinosa-Alvarez left her daughter with friends in Las Vegas last year and went to Mexico to attend to some personal affairs. When she tried to return to Las Vegas, she was denied entry into the country. It's unclear whether she had been living in the United States illegally.
Clark County Department of Family Services took Carla from the mother's friends in October because they were not legal guardians. No charges were filed against Espinosa-Alvarez or the friends, and the girl was placed in foster care.
Christine Skorupski, a Family Services spokeswoman, said authorities had been working toward returning Carla to her mother in Mexico before the May incident.
But Carla's disappearance was a breach of trust, she said.
"You step back from any progress being made," Skorupski said.
Clark County had requested the girl be returned, but that did not happen. The case then became an international law matter, she said.
There is the possibility that Clark County could transfer monitoring duties to the Mexican government, while keeping oversight within their jurisdiction. That commonly occurs when Clark County places a child with a family in another state, such as California, she said.
"We still have the legal wardship and obligation to the child, so the case is in our core system," Skorupski said. "I don't know how that would be handled on an international level. Comparing our courts to theirs is like comparing apples and pineapples."
Mary Brown, a deputy district attorney in the juvenile division, said she could only speak in general terms because of privacy laws.
In a typical international child abduction case, the most common practice is to file a Hague application. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that governs, among other things, child abductions. Both the United States and Mexico have signed the treaty.
"That is a statement that a child's been kidnapped and a requested return of the child," Brown said.
But a case like Carla's often does not generate enthusiasm within agencies, she said. Also, the application was intended for disputes between parents, not between a government agency and a parent.
Mexico is the least compliant country involving child abduction disputes with the United States, according to a 2010 State Department report.
There was no timetable for resolving this case.
But one question looms: Why would Clark County fight Mexico for custody of a girl who will be placed back into foster care if she returns to Las Vegas?
Brown said safety was the concern.
"If the child was with the mom, and safe, what do we care?" she asked. "In general, we would not pursue it (a case) otherwise."
If safety was not an issue, "we would have returned her to her mother a long time ago," she said.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal