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Mother who kidnapped her child, fled to Mexico receives 20-month sentence

Jan. 22, 2021 Updated Fri., Jan. 22, 2021 at 10:02 p.m.

By Jerzy Shedlock (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian

A mother who abducted her then-4-year-old daughter during a supervised visit at Vancouver Mall more than two years ago and took her to Mexico was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison.

Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, through a Spanish interpreter, entered guilty pleas to second-degree kidnapping and robbery and first-degree custodial interference.

Lopez-Lopez, 23, said she was not proud of her actions.

“I feel bad about it. I’m sorry,” she said.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Daniel Stahnke said he was not convinced by her apology. He said he believes Lopez-Lopez knew what she was doing when she took her daughter to another country, and he would have imposed a harsher sentence if he wasn’t restrained by the law.

“You should not have taken her to a place where you no longer know where she’s at,” Stahnke said.

The attorneys said during the hearing that Lopez-Lopez was offered a stipulated agreement because she’s helping law enforcement search for her daughter, whose whereabouts in Mexico are unknown. Defense attorney Darquise Cloutier said her client believes the child is safe with family.

The punishment was “substantially reduced based on her cooperation, which may be ongoing,” Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith said.

Lopez-Lopez originally faced charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, motor vehicle theft, second-degree identity theft and first-degree custodial interference. She will receive upward of 14 months’ credit for time served and will be on supervised release for 18 months after.

Her daughter, Aranza Ochoa-Lopez, had been in the state’s custody when she was abducted. She was placed in foster care in 2017 following founded complaints of physical abuse by Lopez-Lopez. The girl was reportedly covered in large bruises, and Lopez-Lopez was deemed a danger based on the history of abuse, her lack of participation in a mental health assessment and her erratic behavior. She was granted twice-weekly supervised visitation, according to search warrant affidavits.

Lopez-Lopez kidnapped her daughter Oct. 25, 2018, after asking permission to take the child to the restroom at the mall during a Child Protective Services supervised visit, the search warrant affidavits say. She fled with the girl to a stolen vehicle, where an accomplice waited. Lopez-Lopez was on the run in Mexico for about a year, before being arrested and extradited, according to the prosecution.

Her co-defendants, Erick Garcia-Valdovinos, 21, Francisco Javier Hernandez-Reyes, 20, Sherri Franchesca Trigueros, 18, and Alejandro Xulu-Sop, then-16, were arrested in connection with the child abduction and kidnapping of a Centralia man, whose car was stolen and used in the plot, according to court records.

The court ordered Lopez-Lopez pay about $1,500 in restitution to the vehicle theft victim.

Garcia-Valdovinos and Hernandez-Reyes were previously sentenced to 17 months in prison. Trigueros was sentenced to 129 weeks in a juvenile facility. Xulu-Sop is wanted on a warrant, Smith said. Having reached the age of 18, his case has been re-filed in Superior Court.

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