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Guatemalan mother seeks 'stolen' daughter's return from U.S.

From Maria Renee Barillas and Rafael Romo, CNN
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Mon May 21, 2012
Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez, 7, was abducted in Guatemala in 2006 and adopted by a U.S. couple.
Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez, 7, was abducted in Guatemala in 2006 and adopted by a U.S. couple.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The mother has given various accounts of how the child disappeared
  • The 7-year-old girl is at the center of an international custody dispute
  • The U.S. State Department says the case should be settled in U.S. state courts

(CNN) -- Loyda Rodriguez says she can still remember the day her daughter was taken.

What began as a simple walk home from a shopping trip more than five years ago became a nightmare, she says.

"November 3, 2006, is when they stole my daughter," she told CNN Thursday. "I had left to go shopping. When I came back, I did not realize that a woman was following me. When I entered my house, my daughter stayed on the patio, and that was when she was taken."

But that account is not what she has told other news organizations in describing what happened that day.

In 2008, she told ABC News a woman appeared in her backyard and grabbed her out of her arms, while she was trying to enter her house.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that Rodriguez felt someone tug at her daughter as she tried to enter her home, and then turned to see a woman get into a waiting taxi, along with her young daughter.

And the El Periodico newspaper reported that Rodriguez said she left her daughter on the patio with other children while she went to deal with clothes on the terrace.

Reached Friday by phone, Rodriguez told CNN she does not remember telling ABC or anyone that the girl was snatched from her arms. She said she's given multiple interviews on the case, and stood by what she said earlier -- that she left the girl outside after returning from a shopping trip.

It all happened in about two minutes, Rodriguez said.

Now, the 7-year-old girl is at the center of an international custody dispute. She is a child with two identities, in two countries, with two sets of parents who claim her as their own.

In Missouri, they call her Karen. In Guatemala, she is known as Anyeli.

Guatemalan authorities say Anyeli was snatched from Rodriguez and sold to an international adoption agency.

Last year, a Guatemalan judge ruled that the girl belonged with Rodriguez and not with her adoptive U.S. parents.

The Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in 2007 after authorities found multiple cases of falsified birth certificates and paperwork, as well as alleged thefts of babies.

Adopted Guatemalan child to stay in U.S.

This week, the U.S. State Department weighed in on the case of the 7-year-old girl, saying a U.S. state court would have to decide whether the girl should return to Guatemala, because when the incident happened, the two countries had not yet signed an international treaty dealing with abducted children.

"Our view remains that, at the time, this appeared to be a legitimate adoption. So again, our preferred course of action would be for any claims to be pursued in the state courts of the United States," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Rodriguez told CNN she was devastated by the news.

"I feel very sad, and I am still suffering, because I had hope that the United States would respond to me and would return my daughter. ... I do not know why they are unfair, because I have my rights, because I am her real mother," she said.

In Guatemala at least 10 people have been charged with human trafficking in connection with the case of this adoptive girl. So far, two of those people have been convicted, and the others are awaiting trial.

That's more than enough proof, Rodriguez says, that her daughter should come home.

"There is very important evidence, which revealed that she was stolen from me, and DNA evidence proves that I am her real mother," she told CNN.

However, a source with knowledge of the case told CNN that while Rodriguez's DNA matches the DNA of a child brought to the embassy in Guatemala, there is no evidence the child in question in the United States is the same child tested at the embassy.

Also, questions have been raised about whether the person presenting the child at the embassy was, in fact, Rodriguez's sister, which casts doubt on the kidnapping story, the source said.

Guatemalan authorities say the adoption agency falsified documents to make the girl eligible for adoption, something that the adoptive parents in Missouri apparently didn't know.

Rodriguez says she now hopes to go to court in Missouri to get her daughter back.

The adoptive parents were unavailable for comment, referring CNN to their lawyer in Washington, who declined to comment.

Last year a family representative said the adoptive parents would "continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child. They remain committed to protecting their daughter from additional traumas as they pursue the truth of her past through appropriate legal channels."

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