Seven years after the disappearance of a Belgian woman living in Louisiana, authorities arrested her husband and recovered the couple's daughter in an investigation that authorities described on Friday as covering three countries and requiring years of patient investigation.
Sylviane Lozada has not been seen since July 2011 when her husband left the country with the couple's daughter, Angelina, who was then 4 years old.
Officials filed an arrest warrant for second-degree murder Thursday for Oscar Alberto Lozada, 43, on the death of his wife.
Then, during a sometimes emotional press conference in Baton Rouge, officials announced Friday that Lozada had been arrested in Mexico, that she was currently detained in Texas and was awaiting extradition to Louisiana. They said that her daughter had also been recovered and that she was in Baton Rouge and that she would soon be reunited with her family in Belgium.
"This is a very historic achievement," said Sid Gautreaux, a parish sheriff in East Baton Rouge, praising the work of his researchers. "This case was an excellent example of the fact that there are no cold cases."
In a sworn statement accompanying the order, the investigators detailed the last days of Lozada before leaving the country. Investigators said they believe Lozada killed his wife and disposed of his remains in an unknown location; his body has not yet been found. Local media reported that she was a teacher in Brusly, a city on the other side of the Mississippi River, where her family lived on the outskirts of Louisiana's capital, Baton Rouge.
The last time someone contacted Sylviane, a Belgian citizen married to her husband for about six years, was a July 5, 2011 conversation between Sylviane and her mother in Belgium, the affidavit said.
The next day, her husband, a US citizen and Venezuelan, bought two tickets to Venezuela and then went to a home improvement store with her daughter, where she bought concrete, cubes and locks for luggage; then the two went to a pizzeria, said the affidavit.
The next day he returned to the store and bought six large plastic containers. On the same day he sent a text message to his boss telling him that he would be away for a few weeks to undergo surgery, and the next morning he asked three people to go to his house and pack his things. Authorities said that in his rush to leave the city, he even gave one of them his van.
Then, on July 9, 2011, Oscar Lozada and his daughter left the country. Then he left a message with a neighbor who said he was out of town with his wife and daughter. Authorities say that only his and his daughter's passports were used.
When the authorities searched her house and garage, they reported that they found Sylviane's blood on the garage floor, the window, the wall and the roof. Authorities also detailed the abuse, saying Sylviane suffered and said she had been documenting the abuse to prepare for her husband's divorce.
The chief detective in the case, Todd Morris, explained at the press conference how he had maintained contact with Oscar for years through email and telephone while in Venezuela, a country where he could not face extradition. On two occasions, Morris said, they were so close to getting him back to the United States. They came to buy plane tickets for him and his daughter, but he stopped before getting on the plane.
Then, in mid-2016, Morris said that Oscar stopped communicating.
It was not until 2017 that he received information that Oscar had moved to Mexico, possibly to find work, and the investigators, working with the Mexican authorities, began to monitor his movements. Then, a few weeks ago, it was the rest they had been waiting for – news that now Angelina, 12 years old – had moved from Venezuela to Mexico to live with him.
"It was a constant roller coaster," said Morris.
Eventually, Morris said, Mexican authorities picked up Angelina at her school and, after following Oscar, picked him up as well.
At one point, Morris began to suffocate when he described being called by Mexican authorities this week, telling him he would be at the border because Angelina was going to be moved. Morris said he did not know what Angelina's father had said, but said she had been seen by a child psychologist.
"There are many emotions there that we have to deal with," he said.
It is not known if Oscar Lozada has a lawyer.
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