Details of Disappearance
Yessenia was last seen in Deltona, Florida on October 22, 2013. She disappeared with her two children, Michael
and Thalia Otto
. They lived in the 300 block of Covent Gardens Place with Yessenia's husband, Luis Toledo, who is the children's stepfather.
The couple's marriage was troubled. Yessenia was having an affair with a coworker at her job, American K-9 Detection Services in Lake Mary, and her father said she and Toledo were "always fighting." On the afternoon of October 22, Toledo showed up at his wife's workplace, argued with her about the affair, slapped her, then fled the scene before police arrived. He later called his mother-in-law, crying, begging her to convince Yessenia not to press charges against him.
After work, Yessenia joined Michael and Thalia at her mother's house. Toledo called the house again and warned that "something would happen" if she tried to get an injunction against him. Yessenia left the house to get the injunction, then changed her mind and returned without it, telling her mother "it would make things worse."
Toledo came to the house and spoke to Yessenia and her mother, complaining about the state of the marriage, then left again. Yessenia initially planned to spend the night there with Michael and Thalia so Toledo could cool off, but at 8:00 p.m. she changed her mind and decided to take the children home.
Yessenia sent texts to her boyfriend throughout the day on October 22. Late that night he called her to find out what the matter was. He stated Yessenia sounded stressed during the conversation and her voice was slurred, although he didn't know whether she was drunk. They spoke for about five minutes.
This is the last time anyone heard from Yessenia. She usually called her mother each morning between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. When she didn't do so the next morning, her mother became worried. By 10:00 a.m. she had called the police and asked them to check on the family's welfare.
When authorities arrived at Yessenia and Toledo's house, they found it empty. Yessenia owned two vehicles; one was left in the driveway of her home, and other was found in the parking lot of a Publix store in Lake Mary, Florida the same day the family was reported missing.
On October 24, police announced that Yessenia and her children were dead and named Toledo as the prime suspect. A photo of Toledo is posted with this case summary. He was previously the state's third highest-ranking member of the Latin Kings gang.
He has an extensive arrest record, including several counts of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, shooting into an occupied dwelling, kidnapping and attempted second-degree murder. Most times the charges against him were dropped, although he did serve four years for burglary, robbery and kidnapping. He joined the Latin Kings while in prison. Later he testified in court against another Latin Kings member and admitted to committing numerous acts of extreme violence in the service of the gang.
Following the disappearance of the family, Toledo was arrested on domestic battery charges relating to the incident at Yessenia's workplace. A few days after his arrest, he attempted suicide in jail. Two days later, on October 28, he was charged with second-degree murder in Yessenia's presumed death. In January, he was additionally charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Thalia and Michael.
There was physical evidence to implicate Toledo in all three presumed deaths. Some of Thalia's blood was found on Toledo's boot and on the trunk mat from Yessenia's Honda Accord, both of which Toledo had thrown into a trash bin in Sanford, Florida. There were also thirteen bloodstains from Thalia in the master bathroom and four more bloodstains from her on a closet door in the master bedroom. Some of Michael's blood was found on two pieces of gauze in a trash can in a hall bathroom. Neighbors heard screams coming from the family home around the time Yessenia and the children vanished.
Toledo has reportedly confessed to killing Yessenia, stating he punched her in the throat in their bedroom. He denied having killed the children and blamed a neighbor, Tyshawn Jackson, for their deaths. Toledo said he cleaned up the crime scene but Jackson disposed of the bodies and he, Toledo, didn't know where they were. Police don't believe Jackson was in the house when the murders occurred or that he had any criminal role in the deaths.
Jackson had himself contacted the police about Toledo's behavior, saying Toledo had asked him to help move Yessenia's car to Lake Mary shortly after 6:00 a.m. on October 23. Jackson stated he saw Toledo wiping down the car with cleaning solution and putting the trunk mat and a plastic bag containing rugs, some clothing and cleaning products in the dumpster.
Toledo supposedly told him, "I snapped." Jackson didn't question him about this because he was afraid, but he later went to the police, told them what had happened and took them to the dumpster.
In one of letters from jail, Toledo wrote to a friend, "I sent three boxes to Laredo Texas. One large and two small. The large was already sent to Veracruz, Mexico and the two (others) are doing well. Now you know why I don't care what they do with me because my things are well." In the same letter to his friend he wrote that he wished he could tell him what had happened the night Yessenia and the children disappeared, but he couldn't because it could be used against him. He mentioned Yessenia's infidelity and said he was hurt by it, and added, "I Want You To Know That I Never Hurt Or Touched My Kids In Any Way & Never Could! I Love Those Kids More Than Anything & Still Love Them Till This Day."
At his trial in October 2017, after eight hours of deliberation, a jury convicted Toledo of second-degree murder in Yessenia's case and first-degree murder in Thalia and Michael's deaths. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Yessenia and her children were active in Deltona's Spanish-speaking Seventh-Day Adventist Church community. She was attending Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and was projected to graduate with magna cum laude honors in the spring of 2014 with a bachelor's degree in organizational behavior. After her disappearance, Rollins College awarded her the degree posthumously.
Investigators don't believe anyone else was involved in the murders and noted that the Latin Kings do not sanction the killing of children, although they do condone the murder of unfaithful wives and girlfriends. Extensive searches in many places in the Deltona area have turned up no sign of Yessenia, Michael or Thalia, but foul play is suspected in their disappearances due to the circumstances involved.