Sunday, July 8, 2012
Americans Kidnapped in Mexico: Chioma Gray and Andrew Joshua Tafoya
Chioma Gray was just 14 years old when she disappeared. She was very close to her family. She was especially close to her mom Francine Black. She was known as pretty petite African American girl at Tacoma high. She didn't seem to show interest in boys too much, however after a few months her grades started to decline. Her mother wondered what was wrong. Her school coach called her mother to tell her that Chioma had disappeared at school for a while, but was later found with a 20 year old man named Andrew Joshua Tafoya. Francine was shocked and horrified that this relationship was going on. She told her daughter and Tafoya that the relationship had to end immediately. Chioma promised her mother that she would stop seeing him, but her behavior escalated even more. Chioma started skipping school to spend time with Tafoya. Finally, Francine decided that it was time to have a talk with both Joshua Tafoya and his mother. His mother said she didn't know that she was only 14. Francine Black decided to press charges against Andrew Joshua Tafoya, and he was arrested and sentenced to only 6 months in jail. Her mother was hoping that he would be registered under Megan's law, but he was ineligible. Tafoya told everyone who would listen that he was completely in love with Chioma, and that he wanted to spend his life with her. Francine, for the meantime, felt safe that Tafoya was out of their lives....or so she thought.
On Thursday, December 13, Chioma got ready for school, and she left as normal. Her mother remembered how beautiful she looked that morning. But, at 3:00 in the afternoon, when Chioma's brother went to pick her up from school she was not there. The high school surveillance video showed Tafoya's car pulling up near the school. The police were informed that Josh had failed to return from work furlough, had stolen a car, and then disappeared. An arrest warrant was issued for Joshua. They later learned that the stolen car had been tracked at least five hours into Mexico. When her mother was told that the car had crossed the border into Mexico, she felt that her life was over. The police reached out to the Mexican police for assistance in located the missing African American. In desperation, Frances Black drove to San Diego, parked her car, and walked across the Mexican border. But, she could find no sign of them. She was told by a Mexican police that charred remains were found of an African American woman in Mexicali, and that they believed that it was Chioma.
In 2008, a tourist saw a girl working as a waitress in Acapulco. The woman recognized that she was American and struck up a conversation with her. The girl identified herself as Chioma. The woman became curious about the young girl and decided to look her up on line. To her surprise she found that Chioma was the missing American girl so she contacted the police. However, the police were not able to locate her in Acapulco. A year later, Francine was talking to a friend who was a private investigator named Chuck Hookstra about her daughter's case. He decided to help locate her for free. Hookstra crossed the border into Mexico, and located a woman who knew them both. He learned that they were a couple, and that they had worked there several months earlier. They left the area because Chioma was pregnant and wanted to return to the U.S to have the baby. The case went cold until in 2010 when Los Angeles-based attorney M. Cristina Armenta heard about the case and wanted to help.
She looked over Hookstra's documented information about the case, and launched her own investigation. Armenta decided that the family needed to file a civil suit against Tafoya and his parents because she had reason to believe that Tafoya's family had been helping him. In September 2011, out of the blue, Francine received a phone call from Joshua Tafoya. He told her that Chioma was fine, but that she needed to come to Mexico to get her. He told her that he would call her the next day, but he did not call. The FBI was contacted to assist in the case ad the U.S Marshals finally located Chioma and brought her back to he U.S. When she returned she didn't say much about what happened. She stated that she didn't want to talk about it, but later admitted that she left with him willingly. The happy reunion was short lived. Chioma moved out of her mothers house and into the parents of Tafoya at that time. I'm not sure where she is living at this time. Joshua was sentenced to two years in prison.