TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The story of Alek Lara is a fascinating story of cooperation. The biggest lesson I learned on day one, as I began to get the facts of this story, is that absolute cooperation between different agencies, whether law enforcement, help for the abused, International legal, hardly ever happens. That was an eye opener for me. But in the case of Alek Lara, it did, and it was a beautiful story to watch unfold, despite the horrible circumstances it begins with.
Alek’s mother, Isabel Romero Medina was killed while at work, on December 12, 2014. Immediately, Alek was gone, and so too was his father, Ricardo Lara Martinez. Denton County PD begins its murder investigation, while also a missing persons case for Alek. Didn’t take long before an Amber alert was issued, but later, PD would find out that by the time the Amber alert came out, father and son had actually crossed into Mexico, where the father had relatives.
Simultaneously, Alek’s aunt, Rosalba (no last name preferred) went to the Denton County Friends of the Family, an advocate agency. Rosalba met Donna Bloom, and began to ask for help in finding her precious nephew, who she had lived with for a few years. She was, as described by Bloom, Alek’s second mother.
Bloom quickly made a move to secure Rosalba’s legal custody rights over Alek in Texas, in the 431st district court in Denton. Critical first move, to get that established. But then, the wait began. And it was a long one. Months and months pass. Everyone believes the two are in Mexico, but they have no clue as to where. Yet.
As time passed, Bloom built relationships, and common purpose and goals, with not only Denton PD, and the district court but also the Denton County DA, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the Dept of State. The Mexican Central Authority, Interpol Mexico and Mexico City police. It was a kind of cooperation she tells me, and others told me, simply never happens. It’s not that everyone doesn’t want a good outcome. But with so many different agencies, they may all have different individual desires for whatever aspect they are working on. But this was a perfect storm says Donna. A perfect storm of cooperation.
As time passed, Bloom completes a massive amount of paperwork to make what’s called a Hague filing. Basically, it’s 2 inches thick of legal documents, that once filed and accepted, will give Rosalba the recognition of her guardianship over Alek, across international lines. Meaning, Mexico courts would honor that international filing, if and when Alek was found.
As months passed, and the paperwork sat ready, Denton PD now knows that Ricardo had made certain moves in hopes of not being found. Moving frequently with Alek, even changing his name. A break finally came in the first days of February, 2016. On Thursday Feb. 4, Rosalba and Bloom flew to Mexico. Law enforcement there said they had a solid address where Alek and his father were. After two days, they could not be found. It was yet another dead end, but this one brought them home, because authorities had told them this was worth coming down for.
Back to Texas. But then, less than two days later, Donna Bloom opens her email early on Monday morning, Feb 8.
“There’s an email from authorities in Mexico, we have located the child. We are on our way to the courthouse. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe it was true.”
But it was.
Just outside the doors of the main airport in Mexico city, Rosalba ran to the truck, where now 5 year old Alek was sleeping. Despite the flood of emotion, the desire to scoop him up and leave as fast as she could, this was a moment she will likely never forget. So she let him sleep. Just looking at him. The innocent child in all of this. The little boy who lost his mother. The little boy who was on a 14 month odyssey that we may never truly know all the details about. But now, it’s all about moving forward.
But getting back to the United States, was suddenly a harder endeavor than they thought. Alek does not have a passport. To fly into the U.S. from a foreign country, you need one. But to walk across the border, all you need is your birth certificate. That, and in this case, a Hague filing, and a final judgement from a court in Mexico City, recognizing Rosalba as Alek’s legal guardian.
So the group flew to Reynosa, Mexico. Just south of McAllen, Texas, and they literally all walked across the border together. Passing through U.S. Custom’s in immigration, and then on to begin the rest of the journey, to Alek’s new life in North Texas.
As I write this, he has lived at home just under two weeks. Donna Bloom tells me he’s well adjusted, laughing and playing. He has that spirit that his family missed so much. But they also have a giant void. Alek’s mom, Isabel Romero Medina is gone. It’s hard to comprehend what life has been like for every player involved in this story. For Rosalba, she now steps in as the mother who Alek lost. For Bloom, she now has 14 month of experience to look back on, in her first international child custody case. She has learned a lot she tells me, and will forever be grateful, for every person, from every agency, who made it a point, to pull on the rope in the same direction with her. In the midst of something so horrible as the death of Alek’s mother, it’s also heartwarming to know that so many people made the choice, to do what’s right. No matter how long it took.
Ricardo Lara Martinez is still in jail in Mexico as of this writing. He does face extradition to Denton. No timeline has been set yet, and there is no indication if he will fight it, or not. But if and when he does return, he will face a charge, of murder.
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