Free Yanira Maldonado!

By the time you read this, I’m hopeful that Yanira Maldonado of Goodyear, Arizona, has been freed and reunited with her family.  As of this writing, the Mormon mother of seven sits in a Mexico jail.  See this morning’s Fox News report here:  Family Says Arizona mother Imprisoned in Mexico on Drug Charges is Wrongly Accused.

"42-year-old Yannira Maldonado, a devout Mormon who has been a U.S. citizen for 17 years, was thrown in jail while traveling on a bus back to Phoenix from her aunt’s funeral in Hermosillo with her husband Gary, reports.

"The woman’s father-in-law, Larry Maldonado, tells the station the couple believed it would be safest to travel to and from Mexico on a bus from a Phoenix-based bus company.  However, on the trip back, the bus was stopped by Mexican authorities, who ordered all the passengers off the bus and searched it.

"The Mexican authorities then claimed they found 12 pounds of marijuana under Yannira Maldonado’s seat and took her to jail. Her family says the drugs were not hers."

This story began when Yanira and her husband Gary Maldonado left Arizona to attend Yanira’s aunt’s funeral.  On May 22, they confidently took a luxury style bus to return home.  They put all of their luggage in the storage compartment under the bus outside and boarded without anything with them.  According to Gary, he learned later that there was a camera at the bus station and that there should be video showing them board the bus without anything with them.  His attorney told him that they could not get the video unless the judge allows this as evidence first.  He also told Gary that the bus driver who was arrested with them has been released.

See below for ACTION ITEM!

The Story begins as told by family members Julie and Brandon Klippel (See Falsely Accused and Detained in Mexico FaceBook Page)

They were stopped just outside of Hermosillo at a military checkpoint. The soldiers ordered everyone off of the bus, huddling them into a small room equipped with an x-ray machine for their luggage. They lined up all the men and asked for their identification and interrogated several of the people there, but not Gary and his wife who were the only Americans on the bus. After everyone on the bus had been waiting over two hours a soldier approached Gary, took his identification and said “unfortunately there were drugs found under your seat”. They arrested Gary and said that his wife was free to go, but that he would have to go back to Hermosillo for processing.  Gary said that at the time he was not worried.  He hadn’t done anything wrong and everything would turn out fine. The U.S. Consulate was contacted and they said they could do very little.

They gave Gary a list of attorneys which were rated on how well they spoke English. He called the attorney on the list that had the highest marks for speaking English, Roberto Fernandez Medina.  While Gary was waiting for his attorney, a police officer came into his cell and explained that they now believe the drugs were underneath his wife’s seat and an open seat on the bus.  Gary was free to go, but they were arresting his wife.

You Know How it Works in Mexico, Right?

The attorney finally arrived and after speaking with the authorities came to Gary and said “you know how it works in Mexico right?”  Gary said he didn’t, and the attorney explained that if he offers the judge $5000, they would let his wife go.  Gary frantically called family members to get the money wired to him.  He said later that he thought he would be able to pay them off and get his wife back home to their children.  Gary fell asleep in the station on a bench and was awakened at 4:30 in the morning by an assistant to the attorney. The assistant explained that they wanted Gary to leave. He went to a hotel several miles away and waited to hear if the money he had offered was enough, but no one ever came.

Yanira Transferred to a Facility in Nogales, but Mexican officials Couldn’t Find a Record of her

That evening Gary was told that they were transferring his wife to another facility in Nogales.  Gary was able to find a kind person who gave him a ride the next morning to where his wife would be.  Gary went to where his wife was transferred to, but to his horror, they had no record of his wife being transferred there the night before.  When they called back to Hermosillo, they were told that she was not there and was transferred the night before.  Gary’s wife is missing and he is in a foreign land where he doesn’t speak the language and has no friends or family with him.  I have talked to him several times today, and he is not able to hold in his emotions.  He is afraid for his wife and feels his life is in danger.  We love our brother and our sister-in-law so much.  If you could only imagine how you would feel if your spouse was arrested and missing in an unjust land by unjust people, I am certain you would feel empathy for Gary, his wife, and their family.

Please Help

If you know of anyone who can help, please contact us.  If you know of anybody of importance who would be willing to write a letter on Gary and Yanira’s behalf that would be a tremendous help.  We are also going to the media to try and get them to post the story.  Gary and Yanira’s kids are beside themselves and need our prayers and love as well.   

Update 5-26-13

Brian Neerings  (brother-in-law of Yanira) and I drove Gary and Yanira’s son to Mexico to see Yanira at 4:30 a.m. this morning 5/26/13.

We just got back from Nogales Mexico where I was able to visit with Yanira in person.  We drove 15 minutes from town to the prison.  Yanira is in a holding cell removed from the prison population. They brought us to a small opening in the wall separating us from Yanira by metal bars.  We all started to cry when we saw her. The holes in the bars were just big enough for Yanira to fit her fingertips through where she stretched to touch the palms of her son Angel with one hand and her husband Gary with the other as tears streamed down her face.  We all became emotional as she explained that she has never done anything illegal in her life and asked why this was happening to her.  

After 10 Minutes, Mexican Authorities tell them, "You Have to Leave."

She said she knows Heavenly Father will protect her and bring her home.  After about 10 minutes we were told we had to leave. Yanira said that visiting hours were until noon, but her attorney told her that because she is not an official inmate she only gets 10 minutes.  Yanira pleaded for more time with Gary and her son, but was told “I don’t make the rules.”  Gary was understandably overwhelmed; however, he was able to give her a blessing through the bars with his fingertips before we left.  We were asked to go outside while her attorney talked to her for a couple of minutes. There were several guards with machine guns just a few feet away from us as we comforted Gary and Angel promising to do whatever we could to get Yanira home safely.

If the Judge doesn’t grant the 72-Hour Extension, she will go to a Federal Prison in South Mexico…for 6 Months, and she could be lost.

On the way back to town Yanira’s attorney explained that she will appear before the judge tomorrow morning at ten o’clock to make her declaration of innocence.  He stated that he will request a 72 hour extension from the judge, so that we can gather proof of her character gathering letters from those who know Yanira. These letters must be notarized hard copies.  If the judge grants the extension, we will have until Thursday before the judge makes a decision.  If he does not grant the extension, she will be transferred to a federal prison in south Mexico to await the chance to make an official case to the court.  In either case, if she is not released, she will have to wait in prison for 6 months to have her case heard.  He also said that those being held are often transferred without making record of it, and she could be lost.  We love our sister and brother so much and couldn’t imagine her getting lost in the Mexican judicial system.  Gary called a few minutes ago and wanted me to express gratitude to everyone helping.  He was overcome with emotion while expressing his gratitude, but asked all of us not to give up helping until we can bring Yanira home safely.

Calls from Senator Jeff Flake, Steve Smith, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Today we received calls from from Senator Jeff Flake, Representative Steve Smith, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett.  Senator Flake has had communication with the Deputy Mexican Ambassador, and Representative Smith said that he spoke with the Arizona Senate President, House Speaker, and Governor’s staff along with Congressman Gosar and Congressman Frank.  Representative Smith later texted “I am praying for you, trust in God”.

CBS 5 has made Gary and Yanira their lead story for the last two nights and will air more of the story tonight including a Skype interview with Gary at 10:00 p.m.  Earlier today Fox 10 interviewed Yanira’s daughter Anna and will be airing the story at 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. tonight.  We have also been contacted by the CBS evening news, The Associated Press, and FOX News.

We are so grateful for everyone’s support and ask you to continue to offer your prayers and support until Yanira and Gary are safely home.

Update  5-26-2013 – From Brandon Kippel

I just spoke with Gary. He said that when he arrived at the courthouse he was told that he would not be allowed in because he was a witness. Those present at the meeting were Yanira, the judge’s assistant, state attorney, and Yanira’s attorney.  Before the meeting Gary was able to speak with the judge’s assistant. The assistant told him that she would not get to see the judge today, and they would just be taking Yanira’s statement.  She explained to Gary that it was up to Yanira to ask for the extension, not her attorney.  She also explained that Yanira’s trial was tomorrow morning (May 28th) at 10:00am and that the judge would render a decision by 6:00 pm.  She said that If Yanira asks for an extension, and it is granted, then the decision would be made on May 31st a 6:00pm.  He said that it would be at 6:00pm, because that was the time the facility received the lost paperwork from Hermosillo on Saturday night (48 hours since they moved her there). 

 Gary watched through a small window in the door to the room as they brought Yanira up to a wire mesh wall from a holding area.  He said that the assistant and the state attorney were taking notes and asking questions and she was talking to them. Gary quickly said that they were coming out and Yanira was crying so he had to go.  He said he would call back when he could. That was at 11:30 this morning. I will keep you updated.
Yanira and Gary boarded the bus without anything with them.  The camera at the bus station should prove this.

One thing Gary explained to me yesterday in Nogales was that he and Yanira were the last ones on the bus. This was a luxury style bus where they put all of their luggage in the storage compartment under the bus outside and boarded without anything with them.  He said that he was told that there was a camera at the bus station and that there should be video showing them board the bus without anything with them.  His attorney told him that they could not get the video unless the judge allows this as evidence first.  He also told me that the bus driver who was arrested with them has been released.

We have interviews with Channel 12, CBS 5, Fox 10, FOX and Friends, CNN, and the CNN morning show tomorrow live. We have not heard any more from our state politicians since yesterday morning.

Articles about this story:

For up to the minute information, please check the Facebook page Falsely Accused and Detained in Mexico that was started by Gary Maldonano’s brother, Brian Neerings.  Below are several articles and television news items that have been written about this nightmare: 

Family Says Mother Wrongfully Held in Mexico.

Goodyear Husband and Daughter Work to Free Jailed Mom in Mexico.

Mormon Mom-of-Seven Yanira Maldonado from Arizona Imprisoned by Mexican cops in Alleged Marijuana Bust.

Nightmare:  U.S. Woman — Mother of 7 — in Mexican Jail on Drug Smuggling Charges; Family Claims Injustice and Fights for Release.

Yanira Maldonado: Family Claims Mormon mother of 7 is being falsely held in Mexico for drug smuggling.


The most that we concerned citizens can do is to create as much publicity as possible.  Please send an email to the American Embassy in Mexico City.  Please do NOT be rude.  Simply let them know that you are watching this story very closely, and you ask the officials at the Embassy to do all possible to assist in the release of Yanira Maldonado as quickly as possible. 

American Embassy in Mexico