Friday, December 21, 2012

Two Kidnapped LDS Sister Missionaries Freed By Special Police In Guatemala, Both Unharmed

Screenshot: Vallejos (L), Trevino (R)
Two sister missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were kidnapped in Guatemela were freed on December 21st, 2012 by a special police anti-kidnapping unit helped by the FBI. This post summarizes reports published by KSL Channel 5, the Washington Post, and the Latin American Herald Tribune, all of which add different elements to the story.

On December 19th, Sister Sara Catherine Treviño of Mesa, AZ, and Sister Gladys Vallejos of Ecuador, both 22 years old, were kidnapped in the city of Escuintla. The kidnappers had demanded a $5 million ransom. But the two missionaries were not harmed by their captors, and they even got to share some missionary lessons with them. Sara Trevino feels like angels were watching over them the whole time.

Police quickly learned that the missionaries were being held at a home in Escuintla, and on December 21st, stormed the residence, freeing the missionaries and arresting three suspects. No ransom was paid. Taken into custody were an 18-year-old Guatemalan woman and two Nicaraguan men. One of the Nicaraguans, 30-year-old Gabriel de Jesus Calero, was already wanted for the June kidnapping and murder of an engineer in Escuintla. A search of the home where the missionaries were found turned up ledgers recording ransoms collected in previous kidnappings. Prensa Libre identifies the Guatemalan woman as Julissa Colindres Maricela Perez and the other Nicaraguan man as 31-year-old Juan Carlos Mairena.

After her rescue, when her father asked her to consider coming home, Sister Treviño refused, expressing her determination to remain on her mission until its conclusion in May 2013, although according to her mission site, her projected release date is listed as April 12th, 2013. The LDS Church issued the following statement:

"We are grateful for the safe return of two sister missionaries serving in the Guatemala City Central Mission, and we appreciate the concern and diligent efforts of all those involved in securing their release. We pray continually for the well being of our missionaries across the world. Thankfully, such incidents are very rare.

"Most realize that these young people have dedicated this portion of their lives to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They do so at their own expense because of a desire to serve others, and are known throughout the world for the goodness of their lives and the message they share."

Considering that one of the kidnappers is believed to have murdered in the past, I think it's a good bet that angels were watching over these missionaries during their ordeal.

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