Georgia teen Ayvani Hope Perez has been found safe and well 36 hours after being abducted at gunpoint from her suburban Atlanta home. According to police, the petite 14-year-old was reunited with her mother and older brother after being dropped off “in good health” at her Aunt’s home just a few miles from the scene of her Sept. 17 kidnapping.
Two suspects have already been taken into custody and authorities have released sketches of two African American males also wanted in connection with Ayvani’s abduction. Those arrested are 29-year-old Atlanta resident Wildrego Jackson who faces a federal charge of conspiracy to kidnap, and 40-year-old Juan Alberto Contreras-Rodriguez, a Mexican national currently being held on immigration-related charges.
Jackson, who has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for assault, child cruelty, theft and drug offenses, was detained when he showed up for a previously scheduled court appearance. Federal agents used cellphone records of a blocked number to identify Jackson as a suspect, and since then, inquiries have revealed that a gray Dodge Challenger – the vehicle seen speeding away by several witnesses – was rented by a girlfriend of Jackson’s just a few days before the kidnapping.
In the early hours of Sept. 17, a Tuesday morning, two armed men broke through a rear door at the family’s Ellenwood home and found Ayvani, her mother and 15-year-old brother hiding in a closet. In what seemed a random home invasion, the men allegedly demanded money and jewelry, but when they were told that none was available, they shot the family dog and abducted Ayvani.
According to court documents, the family received several phone calls from the blocked number demanding money and drugs before a final call around midday on Wednesday said that the girl would be dropped off at a relative’s home in nearby Conyers.
Following Ayvani’s safe recovery, Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter told a news conference that “This is a good day for the Perez family, but more important for Ayvani.” However, as investigators continue to piece events together and try to uncover a motive for the kidnapping, new developments suggest that this may be only the beginning of the story.
Although police have so far denied any connection between the Perez family and the alleged kidnappers, records from February 2012 show that Contreras-Rodriguez and Ayvani’s mother, Maria Corral, were among a number of people arrested following a drug bust in Henry County. After a motion was filed saying that the raid and search were illegal, a judge dismissed the charges.
Rather than being a random home invasion, the growing suspicion is that Ayvani’s abduction was as a result of the family being targeted for reasons which have yet to be determined. Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett notes that there are mysteries still to be resolved. “This case has these two odd things going on inside it – a relationship between the mother and one of the abductors and is this even a logical house to break into,” he said.
Meanwhile, the search continues for the two men detailed in police sketches, with authorities hoping to make several further arrests in a kidnapping case which no longer seems quite so random.