Alleged kidnapping victim found safe in Illinois; suspect arrested

Days after a north Liberty County woman was allegedly kidnapped from her front yard, authorities say she has been found safe in Illinois.

According to Capt. Ken DeFoor, a spokesperson for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the agency was contacted by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois at about 2 a.m. New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, advising that kidnapping victim Erika Rios Valdez had been found safe while still in the company of her alleged kidnapper, Abel Fajardo.

Investigator Shandalynn Rhame, who spoke to Cook County law enforcement over the phone, was told that a firearm had also been recovered from Fajardo upon his arrest.

“At this early stage of the arrest, there are very little details on exactly where Fajardo and Valdez were located in Illinois, which agency actually made the arrest, or the circumstances of the arrest, but more details are expected later today,” DeFoor said in his statement to news media around 4 a.m. “At the present time, Fajardo is in Illinois and Erika Valdez is safe and sound.”

Valdez, 38, was allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint on Tuesday while unhooking a food service trailer at her house on CR 3404 in the Bella Vista Subdivision north of Plum Grove. Her brother had reportedly attempted to chase after the kidnapping suspect’s vehicle in his own personal vehicle but had been unable to stop the fleeing vehicle.

According to DeFoor, Valdez was an acquaintance of Fajardo. As soon as more information becomes available, an update will be posted.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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