Santos Benavides and wife

Santos Benavides and wife

On Sept. 1, 1863, Maj. Santos Benavides, the highest-ranking Mexican American to serve in the Confederacy, led seventy-nine men of the predominantly Tejano Thirty-third Texas Cavalry across the Rio Grande in pursuit of the bandit Octaviano Zapata.

Union agents had recruited Zapata, a former associate of Juan N. Cortina, to lead raids into Texas and thus force Confederate troops to remain in the Rio Grande valley rather than participate in military campaigns in the east.

Zapata was also associated with Edmund J. Davis, a unionist who was conducting Northern-sponsored military activities in the vicinity of Brownsville and Matamoros.

For these reasons, and because his men often flew the American flag during their raids, Zapata’s band was often referred to as the “First Regiment of Union Troops.”

Benavides caught up with Zapata on September 2 near Mier, Tamaulipas.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, the Zapatistas dispersed, leaving ten men dead, including Zapata.

Benavides later defended Laredo against Davis’s First Texas Cavalry, and arranged for the safe passage of Texas cotton to Matamoros during the Union occupation of Brownsville.

After the war Benevides resumed his mercantile business, in partnership with his brother Christobal.

Benavides dabbled in Texas and Mexican politics, supporting his son-in-law (General Lorenzo Garza Ayala) against the Mexican dictator Porftrio Diaz.

He was often accused of using his Charcos Largo ranch as a supply depot for the rebels. Benavides was elected to the Texas House three times, representing Webb County from 1879 to 1884, and was twice an alderman of Laredo.

He died on November 9, 1891, in Laredo, and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery there.

 

by Jay Root, The Texas Tribune

The Luna Brothers

The Luna Brothers

The Luna brothers, including Border Patrol agent Joel (center), were indicted on capital murder and organized crime charges in the 2015 beheading death of a Honduran immigrant.

Eldest brother Fernando (right) struck a deal with prosecutors on Aug. 25, 2016, and the most serious charges against him were dropped. Now the focus has shifted to the alleged Gulf Cartel ties of youngest brother Eduardo (left).

The Texas Tribune is taking a yearlong look at the issues of border security and immigration. This part of the project focuses on U.S. law enforcement corruption, which has undermined efforts to secure the border.

BROWNSVILLE — Fernando Luna, the older brother of indicted Border Patrol agent Joel Luna, copped a plea last week. Now prosecutors are compiling a growing dossier on their baby brother Eduardo, identified as an alleged former member of the powerful Gulf Cartel.

All three brothers were indicted on capital murder and organized crime charges stemming from the beheading death of undocumented Honduran immigrant Jose Francisco “Franky” Palacios Paz in South Texas last year. The case has shined a bright light on homegrown cartel violence and alleged Border Patrol corruption on the U.S. side of the border.

New disclosures point to the central role allegedly played by Eduardo, 25, described in court papers and public statements as a Gulf Cartel “commander” with a history of violence — someone “very capable of killing anyone for no reason,” one former acquaintance claimed in a court affidavit made public last week. Both Eduardo and Border Patrol Agent Joel Luna, 31, a decorated Iraq war veteran, have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Eduardo’s attorney, Gabriela Garcia, did not return phone and email messages Monday.

During a hearing last week, Joel’s attorney, Carlos A. Garcia, fought for a separate trial for his client on the grounds that he would be harmed by allegations about his younger brother’s violent past.

Garcia referred to statements made to investigators by a high-ranking Gulf Cartel ex-commander now locked up in Houston. The former capo, Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, nicknamed “Commander Pussy,” gave prosecutors damaging statements against Eduardo in a recent jailhouse interview, it was disclosed in recent court hearings.

Saenz-Tamez, said in court documents to have served alongside Eduardo as a cartel “comandante,” is serving a 30-year sentence in a federal prison in Houston after pleading guilty to laundering $100 million while moving a half-ton of cocaine and 90 tons of marijuana through the United States.

“There are accusations of murders, accusations of kidnappings, extortions, quite troubling bad acts that I would anticipate the government will introduce in this case,” Garcia said in a Cameron County courtroom last week. “That bad information would then bleed over and somehow impugn my client and his lack of criminal history.”

Garcia’s argument all along has been that prosecutors are using a guilt-by-association strategy against his client Joel — basically tying the Border Patrol agent to the illegal acts of his siblings.

Prosecutors, though, have said all three brothers were engaged in an organized “criminal enterprise” as a sort of family business. They point to the cocaine, cash, weapons — and even the agent’s commemorative Border Patrol badge and work station password — that authorities recovered from a safe that Joel allegedly bought and used.

Last week, State District Judge Benjamin Euresti ruled against Garcia’s motion for separate proceedings, signaling all three brothers would have to stand trial together. But an hour or so after his ruling, Fernando Luna, 35, the eldest of the three, made an unscheduled appearance before Euresti and took a plea deal. Fernando pleaded guilty to cocaine possession, and the state agreed to dismiss the far more serious murder and criminal conspiracy charges.

Under the terms of the deal, he will serve no more than three years and possibly get probation only, depending on how much he helps prosecutors in the sweeping murder and corruption probe.

The agreement has the potential to shake up the investigation. Another defendant in the case put both Fernando and Eduardo Luna at the crime scene — the Veteran’s Tire Shop in Edinburg, Texas — on the day of the March 2015 murder.

Under the plea agreement, Fernando must “truthfully testify in this case and any other arising out of this investigation.” His defense attorney, Nat Perez, said the older brother could “very easily” end up testifying against his siblings in their trials.

Joel Luna’s attorney expressed confidence that his client would be exonerated, noting that the agent was at his Border Patrol station in another county at the time prosecutors believe Franky Palacios was killed. In the court papers filed last week Fernando’s wife, a Mexican citizen who has since been deported, is said to have told investigators Joel did not have any dealings with the Veteran’s Tire Shop.

“I feel confident — it’s based on what I know of the case — that my client didn’t have anything do with this murder, nor with any of the acts that led to the murder,” Garcia said. “The facts do not support any sort of finding that Joel had anything to do with what his brothers were up to.”

Five defendants in total were charged in the case. Two men not related to the Luna brothers, and who worked at the tire shop, have also pleaded not guilty and are to be tried separately. Officials say the defendants wanted to silence Palacios to keep him from snitching on their illicit activities.

While drug trafficking was a focus of the original charges, lead Cameron County prosecutor Gus Garza suggested in court last week that there are more indications that gun running played a role in the alleged criminal enterprise.

Guns originating from Texas represented more than 40 percent of the U.S. weapons seized at Mexican crime scenes from 2009 to 2014 — far more than any other state, according to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“The evidence now has shown the trafficking of weapons,” the prosecutor told the judge.

In July, The Texas Tribune reported on court affidavits highlighting Eduardo Luna’s suspected role as a member of the Gulf Cartel, and the unproven allegation that he killed Texas-born narco Mario Peña — nicknamed “El Popo” — after being kidnapped during a violent cartel shake-up in 2013.

In new court filings, prosecutors reveal more detail about Eduardo’s alleged activities inside the Gulf Cartel, which controls a large swath of territory along Mexico’s border with South Texas.

The filings show Peña’s sister told investigators of the time she met the youngest brother in Camargo, across the border from Rio Grande City, Texas, when her brother declared: “This is Commander Pajaro … He’s very young.” That nickname was engraved on a pistol found in the safe along with Joel Luna’s badge and work-related documents, and investigators believe “Pajaro” was brother Eduardo’s nickname inside the Gulf Cartel.

Jessica Peña reached out to investigators after seeing Eduardo’s picture plastered across TV screens last summer when he was arrested and charged with the murder of Franky Palacios; she told investigators he “had killed several more people before her brother,” the filings say.

Investigators wrote in their affidavits that Peña said Eduardo ” is a very dangerous person, and very capable of killing anyone for no reason. Ms. Peña advised after the interview that she is willing to fully cooperate with authorities in this case.”

By Marice Richter, Reuters

Ethan Couch, the so-called "affluenza" teen, is brought into court for his adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas, United States on April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Pool/File Photo

Ethan Couch is brought into court for his adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas, United States on April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Pool/File Photo

Lawyers for the Texas “affluenza” teenager who killed four people while driving drunk are seeking to have him released from a two-year jail term, arguing the judge who sentenced him had no authority to place him behind bars.

The attorneys for Ethan Couch claimed in a motion filed late on Tuesday that Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant should not have sentenced Couch because the case became a civil matter, and not a criminal one, when it was transferred to the judge from the juvenile system.

Due to a gag order imposed by the judge, the defense lawyers, prosecutors and the judge did not offer comment on the motion.

“All orders, judgments, conditions of probation and/or other decrees entered or imposed by this court are void and must be immediately rescinded,” the motion released on Wednesday states.

Couch was 16 and had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit of an adult when he struck and killed four people in June 2013.

At his trial in juvenile court that year, a psychologist testifying on his behalf said Couch suffered from “affluenza,” an affliction coming from being spoiled by his parents which prevented him from telling right from wrong.

Couch was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years of probation in the juvenile system, a penalty that sparked outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family’s wealth had helped keep him out of jail.

Last winter, Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled to a Mexican resort town after a video went viral on social media showing him attending a party where alcohol was being consumed, an apparent violation of his drink-and-drug-free probation.

The two were arrested and returned to Tarrant County, in Texas.

Couch’s probation supervision was transferred to the adult system in April when he turned 19. As a condition of the adult probation, Salvant ordered him to serve 720 days in jail, 180 days for each of the four crash fatalities.

Tonya Couch was indicted by a grand jury in May on charges of money laundering and hindering apprehension of her fugitive son. She was released on bond and placed under house confinement.

Her curfew was eased in June so she could get a job. She has been working at a Fort Worth-area honky-tonk bar, according to attorney Stephanie Patten.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Alan Crosby)

Gerald Eldridge

Gerald Eldridge

From The Associated Press

A Texas death row inmate may have faked mental illness to avoid execution for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter 23 years ago in Houston, a federal appeals court said.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling late Monday agrees with a lower court and moves Gerald Eldridge, 52, a step closer to execution, despite his claim of mental illness.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said mentally ill people can be executed if they have a factual and rational understanding of why they’re being punished.

Eldridge was convicted of the January 1993 slayings of his former girlfriend, Cynthia Bogany, 28, and her 9-year-old daughter, Chirissa. Also shot and wounded were Eldridge’s then-7-year-old son with Bogany, Terrell and the woman’s boyfriend at the time, Wayne Dotson.

Eldridge in 2009 was less than two hours from his scheduled lethal injection in Huntsville when U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal halted the punishment. His lawyers had argued Eldridge was too mentally ill to be executed and Rosenthal said the claim needed to be examined.

At a 2013 hearing, Rosenthal heard testimony from four mental health experts — two from Eldridge’s lawyers and two from the state — and ruled that while there was evidence of mental illness, there was extensive evidence inconsistent with his claims of incompetence, particularly that he faked symptoms in a behavior known to psychologists as malingering.

Eldridge’s lawyer, Lee Wilson, said Tuesday in an email that he had filed a request for a rehearing before the appeals court and would continue to appeal the case.

“Mr. Eldridge is schizophrenic,” he said.

Terrell Bogany testified at Eldridge’s 1994 trial, describing how his father kicked in the door of their apartment and shot him and how Chirissa, his half-sister asleep on a couch, was shot between the eyes.

The boy also described Dotson being shot and seeing his mother run from the apartment with Eldridge in pursuit. Evidence showed Cynthia Bogany was shot outside as she tried to flee to a neighboring apartment.

Records showed Eldridge was sentenced in 1985 to eight years in prison for an earlier shooting where three men were wounded. He was released three years later, then returned to prison in 1990 for beating his son. He was paroled after four months.

 

by Marc Myers, Wall Street Journal

Sully

Sully

Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, 65, was the captain of US Airways Flight 1549 that landed safely on New York’s Hudson River in January 2009, saving all 155 passengers and crew on board. The movie, “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks, opens Sept. 9.

Mr. Sullenberger spoke with Marc Myers.

The first time I forced myself to remain calm in a crisis I was 8. My family lived in Denison, Texas, where huge thunderstorms rolled through. One day, when the sky was the color of a bad bruise, my father was removing pane glass from one of our windows and the glass slipped and sliced open his foot.

When I saw my father’s injury, I said to myself, “Oh my God.” Then I pushed myself to relax. I had been taught that if you panicked in life, you’d be ineffective and you couldn’t help anyone or yourself.

By remembering that, I kept myself from losing it. My dad looked at me and gently asked for a towel. I ran into the house to get one and helped apply it to stop the bleeding.

We lived in a white three-bedroom, ranch-style house with black trim and a composite shingle roof. The house stood at the end of a gravel road 10 miles outside of town, in the flight path of Perrin Air Force Base. I wanted to fly airplanes from the time I was 5 and never wanted to do anything else.

My father, Chesley Jr., also was fascinated with airplanes. Just before World War II, he had considered becoming a naval aviator. Instead, he was a dental surgeon in the Navy and became a commander. After the war, he was a dentist. My mother, Pauline, was a first-grade teacher.

Our house sat on a peninsula with an unobstructed view of the Red River and Lake Texoma. The land belonged to my maternal grandfather, who had owned the many acres since 1918.

My parents weren’t in the habit of telling my younger sister, Mary, or me what to do. They encouraged us. They wanted me to become my own person.

I was shy. An introvert. It was my natural temperament. I came out of the box that way. I wouldn’t say something unless I had something to say. I was taught not to exhibit bravado but to develop skills that did the talking for you.

I took my first flying lesson in 1967, when I was 16. By October 1968, I had 70 hours in the air and got my pilot’s license. After high school in 1969, I was appointed to the Air Force Academy. In ’73, I studied for my postgraduate degree and became a USAF pilot in 1974.

After my discharge in 1980, I became a commercial pilot and flew my first airline flight at Pacific Southwest Airlines in 1980.

On the morning of Jan. 15, 2009, I took off from New York’s LaGuardia airport bound for Charlotte, N.C. As the US Airways jet climbed over the Bronx, the plane hit a massive flock of Canada geese, knocking out both engines.

I reported the damage to air-traffic control, telling them I planned to return to LaGuardia or land at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. That’s when I realized we weren’t going to make it. I decided the Hudson River would be our best and only landing option.

Even though I had never done anything like this before, I was confident I could do it. The solution was to have a mental paradigm for solving the emergency: Force calm, fly the plane and set priorities to achieve the landing.

I never even had time to talk to my co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, about how to handle the situation. There would be only 208 seconds from hitting the birds to reaching the water. We collaborated instinctively, with few words.

As we came down, Jeff began calling out airspeed and altitude so I could judge the height off the water before pulling up the nose. At 100 feet, traveling at 150 mph—four seconds before touchdown—I began raising the nose.

The rear hit first, then the main body with a jolt and we coasted to a rest. The plane was afloat. The flight attendants got everyone out into the slide rafts or onto the wings, where the temperature was 21 degrees. Less than four minutes later, the rescue began when the first ferry arrived.

Today, my wife, Lorrie, and I live in the San Francisco Bay area in a 1990s tract house. It’s a two-story stucco home with a tile roof. It’s on a cul de sac with a canyon view.

I’m less shy now than I was as a kid. After Flight 1549, my family and I had to become public figures and more complete versions of ourselves. I had to teach myself to become an effective public speaker.

For years I tried to resist the hero label. Now, with the passage of time, I have a much fuller appreciation of what happened that day. We all were doing our jobs. We just happened to do them exceptionally well.

Nadja

Vajda

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX — A victim’s advocate says a Texas woman is recovering after learning the man who repeatedly abused her as a child will now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Prosecutors say the woman was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by family member Robert Jude Vajda, 51, over a five-year period.

On Tuesday, Vajda was sentenced to three 99-year sentences for a felony charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

“Because of the jury’s hard work and dedication, the victim can finally start the healing process and sleep better knowing Vajda will spend the rest of his life in prison,” says special victims prosecutor Vincenzo Santini.

A psychologist assigned to the case says the victim, who is now in her 20s, suffers from PTSD because of the continued abuse.

Prosecutors say she was just 7 years old the first time Robert Vajda sneaked into her room and removed her pants and panties. They say he touched her body, setting into motion a string of offenses.

From between 2002 to 2007, Vajda is accused of abusing the girl, touching her at first and then escalating his engagement to include full sexual intercourse.

The state says Vajda continued the abuse every other night until one night when the then 12-year-old girl began her period. Prosecutors say that is when Vajda became physically violent with the girl, beating her and threatening her.

The victim confided to a friend what was happening, who in turn contacted Child Protective Services and reported the abuse. That is when her secret began to unravel.

Court documents show a CPS investigation revealed horrific details about the girl’s abuse. The victim told psychologist Dr. Allison Moore that the abuse made her feel “worthless, ashamed, disgusting, and in fear” she might commit suicide.

Investigators learned in addition to repeatedly abusing the girl, he might also be in possession of child pornography.

The Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office says it found approximately 900 images and over 80 videos depicting children having sex on Vajda’s various devices.

A jury found Vadja guilty last Friday after a 5-day trial.

“One child molested one time is a lifetime sentence for that child,” says special victims prosecutor Mary Nan Huffman. “Vajda deserves his own life sentence in exchange for what he did to this victim.”

While mental health experts say the victim must work towards a full recovery, the district attorney’s office credits her courage for being able to tell her friend about what happened.

Without that courage, District Attorney Brett Ligon says they may never have been able to put Vajda away.

“I admire her courage and desire to ensure that this never happens to another child,” Ligon says.

Carter

Carter

On Aug. 30, 1862, Hood’s Texas Brigade played a distinguished part in the battle of Second Manassas.

After a Union assault was broken up by artillery fire, Confederate general James Longstreet launched his First Corps, with the Texas Brigade in the lead, in one of the most successful counterattacks of the Civil War.

The Fourth Texas Infantry, under the command of Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Carter, captured a federal battery of artillery, losing eleven killed and twenty wounded in the process.

Carter was a lawyer who practiced in Austin.

Carter was grievously wounded during the Texas Brigade’s assault on Little Round Top at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, struck by shell fragments in the face and legs. He lingered for almost three weeks, dying on July 21.

After the battle the commander of the brigade, Gen. John Hood, encountered the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, who playfully asked him what had become of the enemy.

Hood answered that the Texans had chased them across Bull Run “almost at a double quick.”

A regiment of New York Zouaves was shattered by the assault, and, seeing their brightly uniformed bodies scattered about the next morning, a Texan officer wrote that they gave the battlefield “the appearance of a Texas hillside when carpeted in the spring by wild flowers of many hues and tints.”

CrHHEmJUkAEXqbT-2We said this morning that news outlets were reporting that former Gov. Rick Perry will be Dancing With the Stars this fall.

It was true. Perry announced it himself today on Twitter.

“I’m dedicated to helping #veterans however possible, and I’m going to use @dancingabc as a stage to do that. #DWTS,” the tweet said.

This photo accompanied the message.

The new season begins on September 12.

Perry’s dancing credentials are not entirely known, according to The Texas Tribune.

“In one memorable moment during his tenure in office, he broke out in dance around a menorah with rabbis and then-state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, while celebrating Hanukkah at the Capitol,” the Tribune said.

 

by Whitney Filloon , photos by Kathy Tran, EATER

BigTex-457Fried Jello, stuffed Funyuns, and more oddities

Taco Bell and Burger King may be the reigning champs of weird novelty items in the fast food realm — Whopper burritos! Fried chicken taco shells! — but for sheer variety, the State Fair of Texas simply can’t be beat. The country’s biggest fair attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each fall, and many of those come solely for the food.

Every year dozens of vendors converge on Dallas’s Fair Park to hawk an array of increasingly bizarre stunt foods, almost all of which will take a dip in the fryer; this is the place where fried Coke and fried butter were invented, not to mention funnel cake beer and bacon margaritas. While the fair doesn’t officially kick off until September 30, many of this year’s new deep-fried oddities have already been unveiled. Here are the standouts:

IMG_5532.0COOKIE FRIES

State Fair Cookie Fries
Just when you thought french fries couldn’t possibly get any less healthy, a State Fair vendor chucked strips of cookie dough in the deep-fryer. Ketchup is a vegetable and that simply wouldn’t do, so instead they’re served with chocolate and strawberry sauces. (This one nabbed an award for “Most Creative”; don’t be surprised if BK snatches this idea and runs with it.)

IMG_5994__1_.0FRIED JELLO

Fried Jello
How does one deep-fry a mixture of powdered gelatin and water without causing a horrible grease fire? The makers of this cherry-flavored oddity say that information is proprietary. It comes hidden under a giant mound of whipped cream (and the requisite maraschino cherry), and intriguingly enough, nabbed a “Best Taste” award.

CHICKEN POT PIE POCKETS

State Fair Chicken Pot Pie
This one’s actually fairly tame — basically a handheld version of a chicken pot pie — until you get to the condiment accompanying it: a ramekin of macaroni and cheese for dipping. That’s right, in America we use mac and cheese AS A DIP. (The tiny paper flag is essential.)

IMG_6056.0FUNYUN DINGS

State Fair Funyun Dings
Like Hawaiian pizza made sweet, savage love to a bag of Funyuns, this concoction combines the bad breath-inducing crunchy snack with pulled pork, pepper jack, pineapple, and bacon, and then fries the holy bejesus out of it. (Served with wedges of fresh pineapple that are mercilessly left un-fried.)

INJECTABLE BARBECUE BALLS

State Fair BBQ Balls
Brisket is the king of Texas barbecue, and rolling it into a ball and breading it frankly seems a little sacreligious. The main attraction here is the “injectable” gimmick: The fried orbs are impaled with mini plastic pipettes enabling fairgoers to impregnate their own food with barbecue sauce. Possibly the most el Bulli-esque the State Fair of Texas will ever get.

The State Fair of Texas runs September 30 through October 23 at Fair Park in Dallas.

 

by RACHEL TROST, NBC News

Nahomi Rodriguez

Nahomi Rodriguez

It’s been weeks since South Texas teen Nahomi Rodriguez vanished after leaving her shift at work and law officers are asking for help in finding her.

It was around 1:30 a.m. on July 17 when a grainy surveillance camera outside the McDonalds in Harlingen captured the 19-year-old waiting for a ride. A grey or light colored SUV pulls up and she heads towards it.

The image isn’t clear enough to gather a solid description of the driver, the vehicle’s license plate, or even an exact model (although it’s believed to be a Ford Escape).

“Time is running and she’s nowhere. Rumors are everywhere saying she’s here, she’s there. But my daughter is still gone,” Ramiro Rodriguez, Nahomi’s father, told Dateline. “We’re just asking God, ‘Why? Why us?'”

Answers have eluded authorities in the case almost from the start.

Nahomi lives with her mother who frequently picks her up after work. That night, according to family members, Nahomi called her mother from the restaurant saying she found a different ride home. Around the same time, she reportedly messaged her boyfriend of several years on Facebook stating she was already home on the couch, making food then heading to bed.

Adding to the puzzle is video from inside the fast food restaurant that night, released by the Harlingen Police Department earlier this month. It shows Nahomi working the drive-through window as a car, similar to the one she was seen heading to after work, pulls up to the window.

It appears to be an older man wearing a white cap with a black shirt. The two seem to know each another, family members said. Nahomi can be seen giving the man a fist-punch.

Police have said they believe the man is most likely the man who picked the teen up just an hour later.
Officials with the Harlingen Investigators are running out of leads in the case and are urging anyone with any information to come forward.

The process of searching for Nahomi has been extremely heart-wrenching for the Rodriquez family. The pleas for her return fill Facebook in both English and Spanish. Many of her large group of aunts, uncles and cousins live in Mexico. Those in Harlingen have traveled door to door to distribute fliers and speak to whoever will open their doors.

After appearing on local news begging for Nahomi’s return, relatives started receiving disturbing phone calls. The teen’s father told Dateline he and other family members have received countless calls from scammers and pranksters claiming they have his daughter and demanding money for her return.

“We’re scared to answer the phone because of the demands for ransom and what these people say,” Ramiro told Dateline. “But we don’t want to miss any news that could come. It’s not a good place to be.”

The rumors have also been relentless. Statements that Nahomi disappeared into Mexico and whispers of sex trafficking have kept the family on edge.

One area offering comfort has been several psychics who have offered their services to the family and believe Nahomi is alive. Although the family is taking everything with a grain of salt, it’s a comfort nonetheless.

“It’s helping me believe she’s out there alive and can be found alive. It’s something to hold on to for me, even if police don’t trust them,” said Ramiro.

Nahomi Rodriguez is described as 5’2″ tall, weighing 150 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information regarding Nahomi’s whereabouts is urged to call the Harlingen Police Department at (956) 425-8477.