Amber Alert canceled: Katy ISD teen found safe in Houston
KATY, Texas — Authorities confirmed Wednesday the identity of one of several people accused in the alleged kidnapping of a 13-year-old Katy Independent School District student, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
An Amber Alert issued for Wendy Arely Hernandez-Orantes was canceled Tuesday after the teen was found safe at an apartment complex in southwest Houston. Katy ISD Police, the FBI and the Harris County Gang Task Force worked together to located the girl.
Investigators detained three people at the scene, including Kevin Enrique Mejia, 19.
Mejia has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. Authorities said he picked up Wendy and drove her to his apartment complex near Sam Houston Tollway and Town Park Drive. Paramedics took Wendy to a nearby hospital for a medical evacuation, investigators said.
Wendy was reported missing after her family realized she had not returned home from school on Monday. At the time, she was last seen walking toward her bus stop near 2013 North Fry Road in Katy ISD at 6:25 a.m. Investigators said the teen never made it to school that day, and for her family, it was an awful déjà vu.
Wendy's mother, Evelyn Orantes, said her daughter was held captive by a gang last year.
"It has been very difficult because I always wait for her at the door when she comes back from school and yesterday when I went to wait for her, she never came back. Since that moment, before she even got home, I saw that other kids were coming and she wasn't," Orantes said at a press conference Tuesday. "So I started calling her. And at that moment she wasn't responding. A few moments later she turns off the phone. And then later on it was ringing, but she wasn't answering. This is really hard because I don't know what person has her."
Investigators said Mejia and Wendy met a few years earlier through a phone app, and the two started talking and exchanging text messages.
The Sheriff's Office said Mejia was arrested on the same charge before after Wendy left voluntarily with him in June, but it wasn't until Tuesday morning they were able to find him.
Mejia is being detained at a Harris County jail on a $35,000 bond. Mejia is also known as Jose Enrique Ramos Rivera and is alleged to have gang ties in El Salvador.
After a press conference Tuesday, Wendy's mother claimed her daughter was abducted in El Salvador.
"We are from El Salvador and she was threatened by people there, we all were. I'm not sure if it's the same people," Orantes said. "I got in contact with them and they gave her back to me. But once she came back home, all of us started to receive threats. I turned in messages of threats to the authorities."
The mother said her family pleaded with gang members to return her, and they eventually let Wendy go. She said the family did not have to pay for Wendy's release, but were warned to never speak about the incident.
Wendy's mother said her daughter looks older than she really is, and feels that is why the men were after her.
"We used to receive lots of threats from the same people, they wanted her. And they wanted to take her some place where all of them men 'had fun.' Where they get together, and when we didn't send her, a lot of stuff happened and they threatened us and we left the house. That's why we came fleeing," Orantes said.
The family moved to the Houston area in February. Still, the threats and the communications continued. The mother said Rivera sent messages through WhatsApp and Facebook. The mother said she notified police two months ago about her concerns, but nothing was done.
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Wendy's mother gave CW 39 NewsFix some of the communications sent to the family. The messages were in Spanish, but have been translated to read:
“How do you not know who you are dealing with?"
"Look, the thing is you and some girl owe me and Simon. If not just ask Wendy who we are and you will see what Simon and I can do."
"We are going to kill your girl, we already know where you live.”
Police said they are not sure if Wendy left voluntarily or was abducted this time, but because she is a minor, the Amber Alert was issued.
Wendy's mother said she was relying on her Faith for her daughter's safe return.
"Just bring her back. I don't care in what condition she is in. If you guys have beaten her up, whatever, I don't care I just want her back . She's my daughter, she's a minor, she's only 13. I don't know where El Yamo is. She's not answering. Just bring her back," the mother pleaded. "I say yes, first God. I believe in God and he will bring her back. Just even if they leave her at the door and don't show their faces, I just want her back."
Orantes' prayers were answered and her daughter was safely returned.
HSCO officials said the office doesn't believe the teen's disappearance was devised by a larger criminal gang, but an isolated incident.