Nearly four months after American Maria Del Carmen Lopez was abducted from her home in Colima, Mexico, her family pleaded with U.S. President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for help to bring the great-grandmother home safely.
Lopez, 63, was abducted from her home on Feb. 9 and her family said they have not received meaningful updates from authorities in recent weeks. The kidnappers were in contact with the family, but stopped contacting them nearly nine weeks ago.
The family pleaded for the safe return of the woman at a press conference in the West Adams neighborhood in hopes of drawing more attention to the case, which they say has gone cold.
“Don’t let my mother’s voice fade into darkness,” Zonia Lopez, the daughter of Maria Del Carmen Lopez, said as she stood next to a portrait of her mother. “Take her home.”
On the day she was kidnapped, Lopez stopped at a local store and interacted with the employees. Then she went back home to water her plants, her son Jose Luis Lopez said.
At that time, a van drove down her street and pulled up in front of her home, Lopez’s neighbors told her family. People in the neighborhood usually gather around her house because she lives in the only place in the rural town of Pueblo Nuevo with a Wi-Fi signal. Three hooded men jumped out of the vehicle and grabbed her. Witnesses heard her yell, “Please stop.”
She struggled to get away and fell to the ground, witnesses said. The men picked her up, put her in the van and, according to her family, took off.
Lopez’s family contacted authorities in the United States and were put in touch with the FBI. Federal police in Mexico also responded to the scene, but the family said updates from investigators have gone quiet.
The kidnappers contacted Lopez’s family a day after her abduction and demanded a ransom that the family was unable to pay, Zonia Lopez said. Lopez was forced to record a message for her family, which her captors played over the phone.
Her voice was desperate when she called for her children, Zonia Lopez said.
“She’s pleading for her life,” Zonia Lopez said, her voice breaking as she delivered her mother’s message. “She says, ‘Please hurry up. Give them what they want. My life depends on it.'”
Lopez was born in Colima and, according to her family, left for the United States when she was 17. She raised seven children in Maywood, California. She holds dual citizenship with the United States and Mexico and moved back to her hometown of Pueblo Nuevo about 10 years ago, her family said.
On Wednesday, her family wore T-shirts featuring her portrait and asked people to visit Justice4Carmen.com for more information. A spokesman for the Los Angeles FBI office said the investigation is ongoing and they are still cooperating with Mexican authorities. The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward in exchange for information leading to Lopez.
Lopez’s family believes she was targeted simply due to the fact that she is a US citizen living in a rural town.
The last time Lopez visited California, she was staying at her son’s home in Riverside County.
He asked her to move back to the United States and offered her a place to stay at his home where she could be closer to her grandchildren. Lopez has 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
On the day she was kidnapped, she spoke to her son, Lopez, Jr., on the phone.
“It was just an everyday conversation,” he said. She planned to water her colorful garden, a lemon tree, and her dragon fruit while taking care of her chickens.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.