Sunday, October 11, 2009


The Aftermath

We thought that the story of Karen Abigail finished for us when the three year old girl was picked up at the orphanage by her adoptive parents, who took her with them to their home in Missouri, USA, on December 9, 2008. We learned later that the story was far from being over. Some months after Karen Abigail had left Primavera, in March, 2009, a judge and a group of policemen went to the orphanage, which is located in zone ten of Guatemala City, just a block away from the buildings that house the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Education, with a habeas corpus order to find Karen Abigail.

The habeas corpus petition was filed by Loyda, a woman who claims that in the registration forms of the grandfathered adoptions at the National Council of Adoptions, she recognized the picture of Karen Abigail as her daughter who was stolen from her in November, 2006. Those forms had been there since February, 2008 and Loyda had reviewed them several times, and for a good part of the previous year, she was convinced that she had found her daughter in the picture of another girl, named Dulce Maria. Loyda was acting under the legal direction of one of the lawyers who work for Fundacion Sobrevivientes, whose director, Norma Cruz has been very outspoken against adoptions, although the scope of her entity is domestic violence.

When the judge with the warrant for the raid of the orphanage showed up at Primavera, I was called by Enriqueta, the director of the orphanage, who asked me to talk to the judge, because she was not at the orphanage and she could not come right away. My office is very close to the orphanage and I help the children who become abandonment cases, so I quickly went to the Primavera orphanage and explained to the judge that Karen Abigail already left with her parents, about four months before. The judge looked everywhere, calling Karen Abigail by a name that I had not heard before: Anyeli Liseth. When he was convinced that Karen Abigail was not at the orphanage, he left. Again, we thought that it was the end of it, since it would have been useless to continue looking for a child who was already adopted and no longer in Guatemala.

At the beginning of April, 2009, while I was spending some time with my family, away from our home in Guatemala City, I got a phone call from Francisca, one of the caregivers of the orphanage, to tell me that the orphanage was being raided by the District Attorney and the Police, who were looking for Karen Abigail. As soon as I hung up, I got another call from someone at my office, to let me know that it was being raided too, and then another call from my house keeper, that armed men wanted to get in, and that they had a raid warrant. A little bit later, I got a similar call from the director of the orphanage located in Palin, a small city in the highway to the Pacific Coast, where the children who had been abandoned by their parents awaited a ruling from the Court of Minors, either declaring them adoptable, or sending them back to their birth families if, in fact, the child was reclaimed by them.

That simultaneous raid of four places, took no less than one hundred men, four hours and at least twenty vehicles, not to mention the time that it must have taken to organize it. The result was easily expected: Karen Abigail was not found. Because as the DA already knew, she had left Guatemala with her adoptive parents, on December 9, 2008, to live in Missouri, the place of residence of her new family. In general terms, the raid was done in a polite manner, except for the fact that the DA brought to the raid a computer technician who checked all the computers at my office, crashing the hard disk of all of them, except for the one that was impounded. They also took everything related with another girl also named Karen Abigail, but who has nothing to do with the girl they were looking for. As well, they planted evidence that was not found at Primavera, but that was photographed as if it was found at the orphanage. That is to say, the pictures of the girl that Loyda had been showing everywhere claiming that it was her missing daughter and the cedula (ID document) of Loyda, the alleged mother of Karen Abigail. At my office, we are still looking for files and documents that were not among the documents the DA listed as impounded but that were at my office before the raid and after the raid are nowhere to be found.

Over the phone, I talked to the agent in charge of the raids, named Oscar Rivas, offering him any assistance I could provide. A lawyer who has his office a couple of blocks away from the orphanage was called by a mutual friend, to go to the raid and to talk to the agent Rivas. At the time, the DA people who were raiding the orphanage in Palin wanted to remove the nine children who were there, arguing that Primavera did not have the right to have an orphanage in that city. The lawyer showed agent Rivas the by-laws of the association where it says that it is, in fact, allowed to establish homes for children anywhere in Guatemala and the court orders that authorized the orphanage to shelter the children at the Primavera orphanage in Palin. The DA people had to desist and left the children at the orphanage, but leaked to the press the false news that the children had been removed from the orphanage because it was an illegal crib house, which is entirely not true.

A few days later, Enriqueta, the director of Primavera and I, went to the abandonment hearing of a little girl at the Escuintla Court of Minors, and when the hearing was over, the DA agent Oscar Rivas approached me, asking me about Karen Abigail. I requested her abandonment file to one of the court clerks and right there, agent Rivas and I examined the file, page by page, and he could see that the process was totally according to the law.

When the DA agent Rivas talked to me about the investigation of a girl named Anyeli Liseth, whose mother, Loyda, was one of the mothers supported by Fundacion Sobrevivientes, I said to him: "You have to do a DNA test to be sure that Karen Abigail is the same child as Anyeli Liseth and even if the DNA proves that they are the same girl, you have to check all the facts regarding the kidnapping. If the parents did not file a Police complaint the very same day, it must be because there was no kidnapping." Rivas said that they could not do a DNA of Loyda, "Because Sobrevivientes does not want to". As I started reading the documents of the trial, I became convinced that there was no kidnapping and that Anyeli's parents relinquished her or at least pretended to relinquish her, and in order to get her back, if they would want to do so, they filed the complaint at the Police station, the day after they claimed that Anyeli disappeared. Loyda has given two other versions of how her child disappeared, different from the version that the father of Anyeli gave to the Police. The Police investigator in charge of the disappearance of Anyeli Liseth died of asphyxia by immersion in April, 2007 and the original file with the picture of Anyeli brought by her father disappeared. It was replaced with copies brought by the DA who also provided a picture of the girl, who looks a lot older than the toddler who was Anyeli at that time.

The Criminal Process

The Ministerio Publico (District Attorney) has brought different charges (traffic of persons for irregular adoption, conspiracy, use of false documents) against the judge who ruled the abandonment of Karen Abigail, the PGN lawyers who acted in the abandonment process and in the adoption process, the lawyers who acted in the first adoption and the notary of the second adoption and the director of Association Primavera. Until August, the MP brought charges against Marvin JosĂșe Bran Galindo, for traffic of persons. He was linked to the process and allowed to post bail for less than ten thousand dollars. Petitions to grant the same privilege to Enriqueta, the director of Primavera have been rejected.

Because the DA would not ask for it, the defense of the director of Primavera, requested the court to do the DNA test of Loyda. The results proved that she was the mother of the girl who was DNA tested as "Karen Abigail" and who turned out to be her daughter Anyeli Liseth. The analysis of the DNA results of Felicita, Anyeli and Loyda proved that Felicita and Anyeli are paternal aunt and niece, and Anyeli and Loyda are daughter and mother. It was done by PTC Laboratories in Columbia, MO.

Since we do not have all the pieces of the puzzle, we do not know why it is that Loyda is claiming Anyeli to be her daughter, the girl we knew as Karen Abigail, when we know that Anyeli and Karen are two different girls. We say that they are not the same, because we know what Karen looks like and she is not the girl in the picture taken at the DNA test. Also, the Primavera caregivers agreed that the girl in that picture is not Karen and since she tested positive as Loyda's daughter, she must be Anyeli Liseth. Therefore, there never has been a DNA of Karen Abigail, who is the girl living in Missouri. It would help to settle this matter if we could get her DNA tested, to prove that she is a different girl than Anyeli Liseth and that she is not Loyda's daughter. Unfortunately, when her parents were approached by the Guatemalan Consulate, they said that they would talk to their lawyer and stopped accepting calls. They hired a lawyer who does not want to collaborate, for reasons that I cannot understand, since it is in the best interest of the family who hired her, to clear things up, in order to be assured that nobody is going to show at their doorstep, demanding that the girl be returned to Guatemala. One may think that it is very unlikely, but the possibility would always be present if they do not establish once and for all that Karen Abigail is not Anyeli Liseth.

This is not the first time that Loyda identified another girl as her daughter, but in this case she is using the pictures of a girl that looks a lot like Karen Abigail, to claim her as her lost daughter. Loyda justifies her inability at identifying Karen Abigail at the PGN interviews, by saying that the PGN employees asked her to leave the premises because her two boys were dirtying the floor, which is extremely hard to believe, since the parade of children being adopted was exclusively for the benefit of the mothers of missing children. She identified other girls as her daughter, whose adoptions were stopped. One of them is a girl named Dulce Maria, who was identified by Loyda as her daughter and who was removed from the orphanage where she was being cared for, despite the positive DNA of that girl and her birth mother.

There are many unsolved mysteries here: Since both girls look so different, why is Loyda claiming Karen Abigail as her daughter? Is she being compensated to pose as the grieving mother of Karen Abigail? Does she know where her daughter, Anyeli Liseth, actually is? From the DNA picture, Anyeli's parents must know who the woman is who went with Anyeli to that DNA test and why is it that they are not filing charges against her? Why is it that the District Attorney’s office will not even consider changing their position against the people who did the second adoption, since we had nothing to do with Anyeli Liseth, only with Karen Abigail? Why is it that the DA is treating the facilitator as a protected witness, when he admitted that he paid for Karen Abigail and he was the one who did the first attempted adoption? He’s who took the woman and the girl to the DNA test instead of Karen Abigail and her birth mother and yet he is cleared off the case after the DNA results turned out negative. Why? Doesn’t he have culpability here?

The whole case seems to be fabricated to implicate innocent people in several crimes. Meanwhile, the director of Primavera and the PGN lawyer who gave his favorable opinion to the abandonment ruling, are still in jail after more than four months! The seventeen children who were at the Primavera orphanage were abducted and taken to three different orphanages after the PGN decided that they were at risk, "because the director is in jail" How absurd, considering the five nannies who care for them during the day and the four who care for them in the night shift. So their adoptions are being investigated and their waiting families are wondering if they will ever become the parents of those children that they already love as their own. All these problems could be solved -- if only the family of Karen would allow her to be DNA tested. It is a pity that they are ill-advised and hurting so many people by refusing to do so. They have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Wouldn’t it be nice to be sure that your daughter is not involved in this?

We have asked the DA to investigate further into the possibility that Karen and Anyeli are actually two different girls. We showed him the pictures of the two very different looking girls and begged him to ask Loyda who is the woman with her daughter in the DNA picture, and to DNA test Felicita. Felicita was located by the DA, and she claims that she had nothing to do with Karen Abigail, or with Anyeli Liseth, because her identity was stolen to record her birth and to go to the DNA. Thus far the DA has investigated the people they want to accuse of several crimes in connections with this case, ignoring finding the truth with many possible leads. We can only assume it’s because they do not want to exonerate us.

As an adoptive parent myself, I cringe at the possibility that someone would put the adoption of either of my children in jeopardy. But if I knew that the lives of so many good people are upside down because I refuse to let my child be DNA tested, especially knowing beforehand that there is nothing to lose and a lot to gain, I would not hesitate one second to take my child to the lab and have her tested right away. It’s the right thing to do.

We have been informed by the court that the DA wants Enriqueta to stand trial. Even though, in criminal cases, when there are doubts, like in this case tha there are doubts about the identity of Karen Abigail, it must be interpreted in favor of the accused. Not to mention the fact that all she did was comply with the court's ruling to place Karen Abigail for adoption. She broke no law, but she would have if she had disobeyed the order to place Karen Abigail up for adoption.

Thus far, both the DA and the judge have not changed their position despite the evidence presented by the defense of Enriqueta, namely, the picture of the girl taken at the DNA that does not match the face of the girl we know as Karen Abigail, the analysis done by PTC Laboratories that proves the kinship of Felicita to Anyeli, and the affidavit with the deposition under oath of the Primavera caregivers stating that the picture of the girl at the DNA is not of Karen Abigail.

As adoptive parents of a child of unknown origin, the MO couple must be responsible for the consequences of adopting a child in that situation and allow their daughter to be DNA tested. PTC Laboratories is located in MO, not far away from the place where they live, but the specimens can be collected at a nearby lab. The results would be matched with those of the girl first tested, and since the MO couple has a copy of those results, they would be the first to know if there is a match. If there is a match, that does not affect the current situation, since the authorities here are acting as if Karen and Anyeli were the same girl. But if the DNA results prove that Karen is not Anyeli, that would greatly help the people who took care of Karen Abigail and those who made her adoption possible. But most important, it would be the right thing to do.

Because the judge did not agree with the petitions filed by the MP to issue a warrant for the arrest of the notary of the adoption of Karen Abigail and for my own arrest, the Sobrevivientes lawyers requested the CICIG (a United Nations entity to oversee the processes for organized crime) to eliminate her of the list of candidates to be elected magistrates of the court of appeals by Congress. The judge did not like it and declared herself enemy of Sobrevivientes. We still do not know if the hearings scheduled on Monday, October 12th., to decide if Enriqueta goes to trial and our arraignment, on Tuesday, October 13th., will take place.