Missing girl found in Ensenada

Alleged kidnapper lived with the family
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By Craig Gustafson and Sandra Dibble

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS

July 31, 2005

Clasping hands, a reunited mother and daughter wept yesterday as they
embraced after a weeklong ordeal that ended with the girl’s alleged
kidnapper arrested and thrown in a Mexican jail.

Lydia Bethany-Rose Rupp, 8, had been missing since July 22 when
authorities say a man who had been living with her family at their home
in Nevada abducted her and fled to Mexico.

Clutching a big brown teddy bear, Lydia smiled and laughed during a news
conference yesterday afternoon at FBI headquarters in Kearny Mesa.

Friday afternoon, Mexican authorities found the girl and Fernando
Aguerro, a 47-year-old part-time truck driver, at a homeless shelter in
Ensenada. The administrator there recognized them from a flier
distributed by Baja state police. They arrested Aguerro without incident.
The convicted child molester had been suspected from the start in Lydia’s
disappearance.

Mexican authorities said yesterday that he had sexually abused her. He
faces a kidnapping charge and three counts of rape. If convicted, Aguerro
could spend as much as 38 years in prison, said Baja California Attorney
General Antonio Martinez Luna. But he added that he doesn’t expect
Aguerro to ever leave a prison cell.

“When he’s done, he’ll be transferred to the United States so he can
serve time there,” Martinez Luna said. “A life sentence seems like too
little for this individual.”

U.S. authorities said they would meet with Mexican officials tomorrow to
determine whether Aguerro would be extradited. Many expressed their
indifference as to where he spends his jail time.

“Have you ever been in a Mexican prison?” said Capt. Jeff Page of the
Lyon County Sheriff’s Department in Nevada. “He’s much better in a
Mexican prison.”

Lydia’s mother, Carmen Bauer, flew to San Diego yesterday and rejoined
her daughter in Tijuana.

Bauer, 26, a born-again Christian, met Aguerro at a church function in
April. She said the two dated and had discussed marriage, but she said
the relationship was not sexual.

She said she did not know about Aguerro’s criminal history when he began
living at her home in Fernley, Nev., about 30 miles east of Reno.

“I would never have put my daughter or myself or my son in danger,” said
Bauer, a grocery store clerk.

Aguerro “treated the girl with a lot of affection,” Bauer said. “They
became like father and daughter. They got along very well.”

In 1985, Aguerro had been convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with
a minor under 14 in Los Angeles County, authorities said.

He had not registered as a sex offender in Nevada but should have,
authorities said. U.S. officials still were trying to determine yesterday
if Aguerro is a U.S. citizen.

After expressing her gratitude to various law enforcement agencies during
a news conference in Tijuana earlier in the day, Bauer became distraught
when an official described Aguerro “as the person who on numerous
occasions abused her” daughter. She stood up and turned away, crying.

It was the first time she had heard definitive details about the abuse,
said Page, who accompanied Bauer to San Diego.

“We discussed the issue this morning that we had rumors that it had
happened,” Page said.

Martinez Luna, the Baja attorney general, said a medical examination
indicated rape and so did interviews with Lydia and Aguerro. He said
Aguerro had confessed to the crimes.

Authorities said the assaults began four months ago in Nevada and
continued during their stay in Mexico.

AdvertisementLydia, carrying a doll and a small green knapsack, appeared
nervous and hid her face while in Tijuana. Her mood changed, however, at
the second news conference in Kearny Mesa. Holding hands with her mother,
she smiled and playfully bounced around on her mother’s lap.

Lydia did not speak except when asked if she or her mother minded if
their names and faces appeared in news reports. “No,” she said. Her
mother also shook her head.

Lydia’s abduction led to a massive bi-national search that included an
Amber alert in Nevada and California.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border hailed the
cooperation that led them to the girl. About 80 agencies, including 14 in
Baja, participated in the search.

When authorities learned through Aguerro’s relatives that he had been in
Ensenada, Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther issued orders that
special attention be given to the case. Agents distributed fliers
throughout the state.

“The reason that girl was found today was because of those fliers,” Page
said.

Lydia and her mother are expected to return home today.

© Copyright 2005 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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