Pair held after children sold in Mexico

18-month-old girl remains missing

By Matthew T. Hall
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
June 4, 2006

An American couple were arrested in the Tijuana area Friday after selling
two of their children in Mexico, federal officials said yesterday. One of
the children was still missing late yesterday.

The couple were wanted on warrants for taking their two boys, now 3 and
4, from the Arizona home of a legal guardian, the boys’ maternal
grandmother, in 2002. Federal officials said the youngest boy and a
sister were sold.

Mexican authorities took Edward Leader, 37, and Jessica Heird, 20, into
custody Friday after federal officials received a tip from the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Department of Justice
spokesman Omar Castillo said. They were turned over to U.S. marshals in
San Ysidro that night.

Castillo said the couple had sold their 18-month-old daughter and
3-year-old son, but he did not know who bought the children or what was
paid. The girl still was missing yesterday, but authorities recovered the
couple’s sons, along with three of Leader’s children from an earlier
relationship, Castillo said.

The oldest was 15.

Leader and Heird were in local jails yesterday awaiting extradition to
Arizona. Heird is six months pregnant with the couple’s fourth child,
Castillo said.

Heird’s mother will resume caring for her daughter’s sons, Castillo said.
The child abduction unit of the District Attorney’s Office is trying to
find a guardian for Leader’s other three children.

At a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse yesterday, Deputy
U.S. Marshal Steve Jurman called the situation “a fairly rewarding case
because not only did we apprehend two fugitives . . . but we were able to
safely bring back five of these children, who were clearly being
exploited in one way or another.”

© Copyright 2006 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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