Police in South-Central Los Angeles are searching for a young Mexican woman who allegedly was kidnaped, released and kidnaped again by a man who may be infatuated with her, officials and the victim's family said Friday.
The woman, Maria Elena Alburto, 20, was on her way to a market on Hoover Street last Tuesday when she was grabbed by a man police identified as Hector Andaya Espinoza, 23, investigators and witnesses said.
He pushed her, sobbing and kicking, into a white Chevrolet van and she has not been heard from since, witnesses and family members said.
"We have reason to believe the suspect stalked her for several days," Los Angeles Police Lt. Bruce E. Hagerty said in a news conference at the 77th Street station.
"Apparently (Andaya Espinoza) has an infatuation with the woman and wants a relationship," Hagerty said. "We believe she could be in grave danger."
It was the second incident involving the two, police said. They said Alburto, a student from Zihuatanejo, Mexico, visiting her family in Los Angeles, was first kidnaped by Andaya Espinoza about Sept. 1. He held her in a hotel for eight days before delivering her back to her family's home, police said.
There was some disagreement between family members and police over whether the first incident was reported.
At the news conference, detectives stated that the first kidnaping was never reported, because Alburto was reluctant to talk about it and may have feared reprisals from her abductor.
But when Alburto's mother, Natividad Llamas, was presented to reporters, she gave a different version. Speaking in Spanish, she said the family, indeed, had reported the woman's disappearance.
Police then ushered Llamas away and would not allow her to be questioned further. When reporters insisted that the discrepancy be cleared up, police spoke again with Llamas and quoted her as saying another daughter, Leandra, had reported the first kidnaping; police said they then telephoned Leandra Alburto and quoted her as saying she could not remember where she had made the report.
Contacted later at the family's small apartment on 62nd Street, Leandra Alburto said she had made the report to the 77th Street station. She did not remember an officer's name, however.
The sister said police made one follow-up telephone call to the Alburto household to see if Maria Elena Alburto had reappeared, but then "nothing more came of it." When Maria Elena Alburto showed up a few days later, she did not want to discuss what happened and the matter was dropped, Leandra Alburto said.
"She never thought he would come back," the sister said.
Questioned about the discrepancy over whether the first kidnaping was reported, Hagerty said the department had checked and found no record of a report by Leandra Alburto. An internal investigation as to what happened would be opened, he said.
The alleged abductor is a distant relative of Alburto who persisted in trying to see her for days and repeatedly queried neighbors about her movements and whereabouts, relatives said.
But the family insisted he was not a suitor and she wanted nothing to do with him.
Andaya Espinoza, who is being sought on suspicion of kidnaping, is described as 6 feet tall with a thick black mustache, black hair and a scar on the left side of his face. A native of the Guerrero state of Mexico, his last known address was in Santa Ana, police said, but he has since moved. The van he was seen driving, a 1980 white Chevrolet with California license plate 1T87458, had been reported stolen from its owner in Santa Ana, police said.