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Laguna Hills Girl Found

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mexican police have found an 11-year-old Laguna Hills girl who disappeared nearly two weeks ago with a 21-year-old man who is still at large, and U.S. authorities are uncertain where he will be prosecuted.

Guadalupe Hernandez Vazques, who voluntarily fled to Mexico with Asael Perez Celis, was found Thursday at his parents’ home in Oaxaca, said Oaxaca State Judicial Police Commandante Antonio Joaquin Lorenzo Hernandez.

On Friday, Lorenzo said the girl was in good condition and in the custody of social workers. He said Mexican police are still looking for Perez.

Lorenzo said the girl told him she does not want to return to the United States and asked to be placed in the custody of her father, who lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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“We’re still conducting an investigation and gathering evidence,” Lorenzo said. “We plan to charge [Perez] with unlawful intercourse with a minor. She’s told us that she willingly went with him but that doesn’t make it right. She’s too young, and he’s an adult.”

The Mexican official said Guadalupe and Perez arrived at his parents’ house March 9, three days after Perez allegedly picked her up in a car as she walked to school. Lorenzo said the girl told investigators they made their way to Tijuana and eventually to Oaxaca.

Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Christine Murray said detectives here are investigating the case as a kidnapping, even though it appears the girl left voluntarily with Perez, who rented a room in the family’s apartment. Murray works in the department’s sex crimes unit.

Maria Vazques, who works cleaning houses and lives in Laguna Hills, expressed relief that her daughter was safe. She acknowledged that the girl wants to remain in Guadalajara with a 14-year-old brother and her father.

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Lorenzo said the father will travel to Oaxaca today to take custody of her. Vazques said she will try to persuade her to come back to the U.S.

“I want her home, but she doesn’t want to come back,” said Vazques, who also has a 10-year-old daughter living with her. “She’s embarrassed by what happened and worries about what the other kids will think about her.”

Vazques said she wants her daughter to receive psychological counseling and worries that she may have been “greatly harmed by this experience.”

Murray praised the cooperation that U.S. authorities have received from Mexican police. But the case has also raised questions about where Perez will be prosecuted when he is arrested.

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“It’s our case. We have a criminal case filed against [Perez] . . . But we haven’t broached the subject of extradition yet,” said Murray.

Mexico rarely extradites its citizens for prosecution in the United States. Murray said it is possible Perez may be prosecuted in Oaxaca.


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