FBI Says U.S. Woman Is Suspect in Lost Tot Case

Times Staff Writer

The FBI said Wednesday that a U.S. resident is regarded as a suspect in the abduction of a 6-month-old Tijuana girl whose parents fear may have been smuggled into the United States for sale to prospective adoptive parents.

Gary Laturno, a spokesman for the FBI in San Diego, said FBI agents had interviewed a female suspect who lives in the Los Angeles area. The suspect is not in custody, said Laturno, who declined to identify her.

Laturno also would not say whether the suspect is the same San Bernardino woman who relatives of the missing child believe may have been involved in the abduction.

"This office is very actively investigating the case," Laturno said.

The FBI spokesman said there is still some question as to whether the missing child had been taken into the United States. The FBI, which handles interstate and international kidnaping cases, would only have jurisdiction if the child had been brought into this country.

In Tijuana, the Baja California State Judicial police are also investigating the girl's disappearance. U.S. and Mexican authorities have been exchanging information, but officials acknowledged that the international nature of the inquiry has slowed the investigation.

The child, Virginia Esther Angel Ventura, was abducted from her mother, a Tijuana street vendor, on Sept. 6, according to the family. The child's mother, Esther Ventura Gonzalez, said the girl was taken by a woman believed to be an American. Family members and friends fear a baby smuggling ring may have snatched the girl.

After the child was taken, the mother says she learned that another Tijuana street vendor, then pregnant, had been approached several weeks earlier by an American woman who said she was interested in buying her baby. The vendor was not interested, but the woman still provided her name and address in San Bernardino.

San Bernardino police have confirmed that they interviewed a woman in connection with the case.

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