Family keeping faith kidnapped children will be returned

Family keeping faith kidnapped children will be returned

TUCSON, ARIZONA - It's been anything but a party for David and Erika Ramirez, as they gathered Sunday among family and their children. They've been telling stories in tough times as they await any new developments.

Emotions are mixed among them all.

"It's a roller coaster of happy to hear that they found the car. Then it's sad because you don't hear anything and you're kind of left in the dark," Erika Ramirez told Tucson News Now.

She's joyful that a search for the suspect's car proved fruitful when it was found Saturday, May 5, in Nogales, Arizona.

But it was painful for her to learn that the people expected to be inside the vehicle are still missing.

Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Luis and Andrea Ramirez, have been on the run since Friday, May 4. An AMBER Alert was issued statewide.

Tucson police said Luis and Andrea kidnapped their children, 5-year-old Luis Jr. and 6-month-old Kahmila, during a supervised visit with the Arizona Department of Child Safety at a park near 29th Street and Kino Parkway.

Family said Luis Ramirez is described as Hispanic, about 5'5" tall, weighing 210 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Officers believe, according to evidence found in the recovered vehicle, that he may have shaved off his mustache and beard.

Family described Andrea Ramirez as also Hispanic, about 5'1" tall, weighing 220 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. They said she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and needs help walking.

Luis Jr. has been in the foster care of his uncle and aunt, David and Erika, since Nov. 2016. They took in Kahmila when she was born.

"Some people will comment, 'They weren't really yours.' They were my babies. We've had them for a long time. We've cared for them, put them to sleep, fed them, cared for them. You become attached to them," Erika said.

David said they have found comfort in family and friends during the day, but the pain is unbearable at night.

"We go home. There's a crib. The baby items are around the house. There's Luis' things that are around the house. The bottles are still where they were left when they left the house that morning. It's overwhelming," he said.

They've cared for the children, along with the three children of their own, ever since Luis and Andrea Ramirez first faced criminal charges nearly two years ago.

Two days before the kidnapping, 30-year-old Luis and 28-year-old Andrea were arraigned on 20 new counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Authorities said those charges did not involve their own children, but family said the charges were connected to the previous alleged criminal incidents.

Erika thinks that the latest incident forced the birth parents to snap.

"It was that. They added more charges," she said.

Sgt. Pete Dugan, a TPD spokesman, said the assault and kidnapping happened Friday morning and Luis Ramirez Sr. threatened the DCS worker with a taser and tied her to a tree. They then took the children and fled the area.

David Ramirez said he has notified authorities in the past of potential danger.

"We did say, 'Hey, they might be a flight risk. This is something that could be a possibility,' he said, talking about his brother and sister-in-law's potential. "We brought it up a lot of times so it was really disconcerting to hear that pretty much what you feared is happening. You're just at a loss for words because we knew that something could happen."

David and Erika believe the suspects may have fled into Mexico, although they believe their resources are limited for hiding out in the country.

They avoided speaking negatively about their siblings, knowing the only goal in mind is the safe return of their children.

"We can't let this die down where it was in the news one day and gone tomorrow. The more we do, the more we put up flyers, take them around everywhere we know - it's a constant in your face. Let's not forget them. Let's bring them back to justice."

A felony arrest warrant has been issued for Luis and Andrea on one count of kidnapping and two counts of domestic violence-kidnapping.

Anyone with information about this incident or their whereabouts of those involved should call 911.

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