15 May 2012

The Author

Author of the award-winning book Finding Fernanda. Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Redux Pictures photographer. Read more here.


Associated Press reports US “won’t return adopted girl snatched from Guatemalan mother;” Loyda Rodríguez may sue

Today, the Associated Press reports, the spokesperson for Guatemala’s Ministry of Exterior Relations, Celeste Alvarado, stated that the United States has presented a diplomatic note refusing to return the child now known as “Karen Abigail” to her mother in Guatemala.

The objection, the AP reports, is based on the fact that neither Guatemala nor the United States were party to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction at the time of the girl’s kidnapping in 2006.

When the girl left Guatemala on December 9, 2008 alongside adoptive parents Timothy and Jennifer Monahan, both countries had ratified the treaty.

UPDATE: 5/15/2012: A new AP article now says that Loyda Rodríguez plans to file suit in a US court:

“A Guatemalan mother who says her child was stolen and later turned over to a U.S. couple for adoption said Tuesday that she will go to a Missouri court seeking to get her daughter back now that the U.S. State Department has said it doesn’t have jurisdiction to help return the girl…”

Read the full article here: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20631164/guatemala-mom-ask-us-court-help-adopted-girl

The previous AP piece, in Spanish, was picked up by ElPeriódico. A shortened English version appeared in the Washington Post.

This brief and slightly modified excerpt from “Finding Fernanda” was originally published on this website in a blog post from August 2, 2011, Guatemalan Court Revokes Passport; Asks for Return of Adopted Child “Karen Abigail.“ 

“The daughter of Loyda Elizabeth Rodríguez and Dayner Orlando Hernández, both twenty-four years old, was kidnapped on November 3, 2006 from their home. They reported Anyelí’s kidnapping the same day. The couple had two other children together, and two-year-old Anyelí was their middle child and only daughter. After years of pleading with authorities to help find her missing daughter, Loyda finally found a photo she believed to be Anyelí in Guatemalan immigration records, in the adoption file of a child called “Karen Abigail López García.”

But the child had already been taken out of the country. “Karen Abigail” left Guatemala aboard Continental airlines flight #457 on December 9, 2008 with a new set of parents, Jennifer Vanhorn Monahan and Timothy Monahan of Liberty, Missouri. They were clients of the Florida-based adoption agency Celebrate Children International, a Christian nonprofit with a serious complaint history dating back to the company’s start in 2004. A “contact” for the agency, a young Guatemalan man in his 20′s named Marvin Bran, had initially offered “Karen Abigail” to agency director Sue Hedberg for placement. When the Monahans accepted an adoption referral for “Karen Abigail,” the lawyer listed on their Guatemalan Power of Attorney form was none other than César Augosto Trujillo, the same man who handled many other “Marvin Bran babies,” including the little girl at the heart of my book: Maria Fernanda Alvarado.

The Monahans’ adoption was a slow, tangled process that began in 2006. By July 2007, a failed DNA test revealed that a fake birth mother had relinquished “Karen Abigail.” According to emails the Monahans sent to Guatemalan private investigators, they were distressed and confused. They’d already waited seven months for the adoption to move forward, with almost no progress. On August 1, Jennifer Monahan wrote in her personal timeline of the adoption that agency head Sue Hedberg had planned to ask LabCorp, the primary DNA testing facility in the US used for adoptions, to “bury” the results of the mismatched test.

But “LabCorp can’t do that anymore,” Monahan noted, because of newly tightened regulations. She’d grown suspicious about what was unfolding in the adoption, and took careful notes of everything that transpired, including, her notes say, recording phone conversations with Sue Hedberg.  When Monahan asked Hedberg what could be done after the child’s failed DNA test, aparently seeking alternative ways to push the adoption through, Hedberg responded that Marvin might bring the child to an orphanage, where she might eventually become declared abandoned. Or, Hedberg said, Bran might dump the girl “somewhere where nobody could find her.” In subsequent emails, Monahan said she was “terrified.”

Guatemalan adoption attorney Susana Luarca became involved in the case, and the Monahans ultimately were able to adopt “Karen Abigail” through an abandonment process, meaning that the  failed DNA test- which were meant to prevent fraud in adoption- could be ignored.  

It was exactly the kind of scenario Loyda Rodríguez feared: her missing girl left Guatemala before the crawling judicial system could look into her open case. Over a year had passed from the time Loyda filed a missing child complaint on November 3, 2006, and the time “Karen Abigail” left Guatemala, on December 9, 2008.”

Click here for more from the book.


8/3/11 DOCUMENTS: Court Ruling in “Karen Abigail” Case

 8/4/11: DNA Test Matches Adopted Child “Karen Abigail” and Guatemalan Birth Mother Loyda Rodríguez

8/12/11: ElPeriódico on False Documents in “Karen Abigail” case 

8/12/11: Minor’s Court Judge Mario Fernanda Peralta Castañeda “Captured,” Found with 15 Illegal Weapons, Charged with Human Trafficking, Then Set Free

8/16/11: CNN on the Karen Abigail case

8/23/11: Organized Crime Unit of Ministerio Public Tracked Migration Records for Timothy & Jennifer Monahan, “Karen Abigail,” Sue Hedberg 

8/24/11: New American Media on “Karen Abigail” case

10/24/2011: Inside the Courtroom: Anyelí Rodríguez/ “Karen Abigail” Human Trafficking Sentencing

10/24/2011: Asociación Primavera lawyer, director found guilty of human trafficking in “Karen Abigail” case     

  1. Were it the other way round, if it were a Guatemalan couple holding an American child, we would be sending in the Marines! I wonder if the Monahans used Congressional influence on the State Department to get this technicality of a ruling.

    I did speak with a friend in Carthage, Mo about the Romero case and she believes that the court did give Encarnacion Romero’s son back to her and voided the adoption by the Mosers.

  2. The links provided right after the 5/5/2012 update no longer work. Do you have these articles archived somewhere so that they can be read?


    The previous AP piece, in Spanish, was picked up by ElPeriódico. A shortened English version appeared in the Washington Post.”

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