LAREDO, Texas - Almost 13 years after their daughter disappeared in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, at the height of its drug war, William and Maria Slemaker, of Laredo, said they closer to finally learning her fate.
“We’re getting closer to finding out the truth,” said Slemaker, the stepfather who still considers Yvette Martinez, a mother of two, his own daughter.
Martinez and her friend, Brenda Cisneros, had gone to Nuevo Laredo for a concert Sept. 17, 2004, but they never returned.
But with last week’s conviction and sentencing in Laredo of Ivan Caballero Velasquez, a leader of the violent Zetas cartel, on federal conspiracy charges, the Slemakers said they believe the man known as “Talivan,” was involved in their kidnapping.
Slemaker said after he entered the courtroom, he briefly looked at Talivan, but the Zetas leader lowered his gaze. The convict avoided eye contact after that.
In being allowed to address the court, Slemaker related what he said both the federal prosecutor and Talivan’s defense attorney had told him: The young women had been in the Zeta leader’s Nuevo Laredo office.
Slemaker said he was also told Talivan had nothing to do with their kidnappings, but Yvette’s father said he believes they were carried out “as a favor.”
“I want to know who he did the favor for,” Slemaker said.
He said he wants Talivan “to come clean” so that person can be charged in the disappearance and probable executions of both women.
Slemaker said after they vanished, “we realized there were so many walking in our shoes, that were suffering the same pain.”
WEB EXTRA: William and Maria Slemaker describe what they’ve endured during their search for justice, including at one time, threats against their lives.
He said they learned “countless U.S. and Mexican citizens” were taken as rival cartels fought for control of Nuevo Laredo.
As a result, Slemaker created a website that is no longer active, but he said it helped bring attention to their plight.
He said his 27-year-old daughter was not involved in the drug trade, but like many others at the time, knew people who were.
“They may have known people because they went out to dances in Nuevo Laredo,” Slemaker said.
But he said that didn’t give anyone the right to kidnap and murder them.
Slemaker said he and his wife have accepted God’s will.
“We are at peace. We believe she is in God’s hands,” Slemaker said. “We don’t need any type of closure, but we do need justice.”
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