Details of Disappearance
Aranza was last seen in Vancouver, Washington on October 25, 2018. She had been placed in foster care in 2017 following complaints of physical abuse by her mother, 21-year-old Esmeralda Lynn Lopez-Lopez. Aranza was reportedly covered in bruises, and Esmeralda was deemed a danger to her daughter due to her history of abuse, erratic behavior and refusal to participate in a mental health assessment.
Esmeralda was granted twice-weekly supervised visitation with Aranza. During one of the visits, while they were at the Vancouver Mall, she asked for permission to take Aranza to the bathroom. They never returned; Esmeralda had fled with her daughter in a stolen vehicle where a sixteen-year-old accomplice, Sherri Franchesca Trigueros, was waiting. They planned to take Aranza to La Libertad, a town near the Guatemalan border in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Alejandro Xulu-Sop, 15, and Francisco Javier Hernandez-Reyes and Erick Garcia-Valdovinos, both 18, were arrested in connection with Aranza's abduction and with the kidnapping of a Centralia, Washington man, whose car was the one stolen and used in Aranza's abduction. Several weeks later, Trigueros, who had traveled to Mexico with Esmeralda and Aranza, turned herself in to authorities at the U.S. border and was arrested also.
The four teenagers had planned the abduction with Esmeralda for about two weeks. When her car developed a flat tire, they had to get a new getaway car, so Esmeralda went to a former boyfriend on the pretext of needing a ride to Centralia. While the man was at her apartment, on Trigueros's cue, Xulu-Sop, Hernandez-Reyes and Garcia-Valdovinos came in wearing masks and threatened the man with knives. They told him they were taking his car and demanded his debit card and PIN number. They left him bound, gagged, blindfolded and tied to a chair for over twelve hours before he was able to free himself and escape by jumping out a second-floor window.
One of the judges who presided over the case said it was one of the worst kidnapping cases she'd seen during her judicial career. Two of the teenagers who robbed the Centralia man and held him captive in order to assist Esmeralda in her daughter's kidnapping were sentenced to 17 months in prison, and one to 129 weeks in a juvenile detention facility; the case against the fourth is still pending.
Mother and daughter's whereabouts were unknown for almost a year, until Esmeralda was located in Mexico, arrested and extradited to Washington to face charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, motor vehicle theft, second-degree identity theft and first-degree custodial interference. A photo of her is posted with this case summary.
Aranza was not located when her mother was arrested, however, and remains a missing child. Investigators believe she is still in Mexico, living with Esmeralda's family members.