SAN JUAN —Police reunited a teenage woman with her family Monday afternoon, nearly 19 hours after she was abducted, blindfolded and dumped in a Reynosa field.
The 18-year-old woman, whose name was not disclosed by police, was walking to a friend’s house about 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
A black van pulled up alongside her and three men hopped out, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said. They snatched the girl, blindfolded her and took her to Reynosa.
The kidnappers began calling the woman’s family demanding ransom money.
“The kidnappers somehow missed it that she had a cell phone,” Gonzalez said. “We were able to keep communicating with her.”
The chief said police investigators, FBI agents and Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies negotiated with the kidnappers. Once the abductors realized their victim’s family would not be able to pay a ransom, they dumped her in a random field.
She had her cell phone, but police still had no idea where she was.
Customs officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents were put on alert to look for the teen and a helicopter surveyed Mexico from this side of the border, but found nothing.
U.S. authorities did not contact their Mexican counterparts because they did not know whether they were corrupted or connected to the girl’s captors, Gonzalez said.
The girl had no idea where she was, Gonzalez said, and because she was in another country, officers could not go there directly to pick her up.
“The only thing that prevented us from going out there and helping her was that river,” the chief said.
For about four hours during the night, authorities could not reach her on her phone, likely due to a poor signal.
“We felt helpless because we couldn’t help her at all,” he said.
It was the cell phone that proved crucial to finding her location and bringing her home, Gonzalez said.
“We were able to keep communicating with her,” he said.
Random people the girl encountered would not help, either.
“People that she came across didn’t want to help,” the chief said. “People are living in fear in Mexico.”
Gonzalez would not specify exactly who went to pick up the girl — only that a “courageous person” crossed and found her covered in dirt, but unharmed.
“The only thing that was on her mind was ‘I want to go home with my mom,” the chief said. “‘I want to be safe.’”
Kidnappings for ransom involving random victims rarely occur in the Rio Grande Valley, law enforcement officials said. But they still do happen.
In November 2009, a McAllen businessman was abducted at gunpoint from a Starbucks Coffee parking lot and taken to Reynosa. The kidnappers demanded $30,000 and two luxury vehicles as ransom. Mexican police found the man bound and beaten at a northeast Reynosa house and returned him to the United States.