The family of Yanira Maldonado, the Arizona mom jailed in Mexico on allegations of smuggling drugs aboard a bus, say the mother of seven was framed and still fear that they may never see her again.
“Our greatest fear right now is that our sister will be lost,” Maldonado’s brother-in-law, Brandon Klippell, told the “Today” show on Wednesday. “One of the things the attorney said to us right in the beginning is that once you’re in the federal prison system (in Mexico), they move you around without keeping good records. In fact, she was lost for the first day in the prison system when this first started. If she’s moved and transported around, we may never see our sister again, and that’s something that would just be devastating to our family.”
The Arizona mom’s ordeal began May 22, when the bus she and her husband, Gary, were riding on their way home to Goodyear, Ariz., after attending a funeral in Mexico, was stopped in Hermosillo. Mexican soldiers said a box containing 12 pounds of marijuana was found under Maldonado’s seat. The mother of seven’s family says the package did not belong to her; they’ve claimed that officers tried to get the 42-year-old to pay a bribe in exchange for not being arrested.
"I was at the checkpoint," Maldonado told CNN. "They asked us to get off bus. And they were checking for drugs or I don't know what else. And they say they found something under my seat. But I never saw anything. They didn't show me anything. It was just amazing all that, what they did."
Maldonado, a Mormon, also maintained her innocence in an interview with ABC15.com.
“I’m going to be free; I’m not guilty,” she said. “I have nothing to hide.”
A Mexican official bolstered Maldonado’s claim of innocence to CNN, agreeing that the Arizona mom was framed.
While being jailed, Maldonado has turned to the Bible for inspiration.
"Reading the scriptures, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting" are what's helping her get through each day in jail, Maldonado told CNN. "And all the support that I've been getting from my family, my husband, my children, and everybody out there reaching out to help."
At a Wednesday court hearing for the jailed mother, her attorney, Jose Francisco Benitez Paz, said the smuggling effort showed a level of sophistication that Maldonado could not have been capable of.
"It was very well prepared," the attorney said, according to USA Today. "It wasn't something quick. It was very well done."
“This page was made in an attempt to alert U.S. Tourist [sic] to NOT go to Mexico until Yanira Maldonado is released,” the description for the latter Facebook page reads. “If we stop vacationing there or spending money there it will send them a tremendous message.”