2 men are charged with kidnapping, raping missing woman

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - An illegal immigrant and another man who live in the trailer park where a 22-year-old woman disappeared last Saturday are charged with kidnapping and raping her. The woman’s sister found her in the home of Luiz Lopez-Lara, 25, and Helmer Erazo, 23, on Monday afternoon.

Lopez-Lara and Erazo are charged with first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree sexual abuse. Lopez-Lara is being held without bond because prosecutors fear he would disappear if a bond is allowed. A judge set Erazo's bond at $150,000.

The men live in the Briarwood Mobile Home Park off Farm Road 156 near Missouri 413 (Sunshine Street) just west of south Springfield, where the girl lives with her sister.

According to the probable cause statements against the men, the victim has autism and the mental capacity of a 9-year-old child. She left a note when she disappeared “but it was unintelligible.”

More than 60 sheriff's deputies, state troopers, and Springfield and Republic police officers searched the home and the surrounding area. They used bloodhounds from the Ozarks Correctional Center near Fordland, the sheriff's department's Mounted Posse, a Highway Patrol helicopter crew, and dozens of citizen-volunteers, but didn’t find the woman on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning.

On Monday afternoon, the woman’s sister started walking through the mobile home park and showing her sister’s picture to people. That’s when a man standing at his mailbox told her that her sister was in his home. The woman’s sister called the sheriff’s department, which arrested three men, although only Lopez-Lara and Erazo were charged as of Tuesday afternoon. Officers said Lara-Lopez fled to another nearby mobile home before he was found and arrested.

The 22-year-old woman told officers and trained interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center that she’d been sexually assaulted and held against her will.

The woman said she ran away from her home because she was upset. As she was walking, according to the probable cause statement, she said “some ‘Mexicans were hitting on me,’ they were saying, ‘Hey pretty girl,’ whistling at her, and asked her to drink alcoholic beverages with them at their residence. She described the males as the ‘Mexican with the pony tail,’ the ‘Mexican in the black shirt,’ and the ‘Mexican in the green shirt.’, according to the detective’s statement.

The woman later identified the man with the pony tail as Lopez-Lara. She identified the man in the black shirt as Erazo, and also identified the man in the green shirt. She said the men invited her into the home but the man in the green shirt "tried to warn her to be careful about going into the residence.”

The woman described how Lopez-Lara removed her clothes and gave her different clothes. She also described how Lopez-Lara hit her and raped her, according to the probable cause statement.

“She said she tried to say no and when she stood up he threw her back on the bed and it hurt her. She said this happened five different times. She said she told Lopez-Lara to get off of her and told her she was his and he owned her. (She) said Lopez-Lara hit her with his fist and also bit her lip after she pushed him away from kissing her. She said she was ‘drunk’ because Lopez-Lara had gotten ‘beer’ from a gas station and given her one,” the probable cause statement says.

The woman said she hid in the closet but Erazo “found her and choked her by grabbing her around her throat with both hands, lifting her from the floor to remove her from the closet.” She said Erazo also bit her neck while she was naked, and wouldn’t let her put her clothes back on.

The woman also said the men starved her.

“She said they provided her with some ‘Mexican food,’ but it was spicy and she did not like it. She said Lopez-Lara gave her a Kit Kat bar and a bag of chips she believed he got from a gas station. . . She said they gave her water, but she did not like it because it was not bottled,” the statement says.

The woman said “she was locked in the residence and, ‘They kept me there.’” She said they threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
A physical exam found evidence that the woman had been raped, hit and bit.

Erazo told a detective that he had talked to a deputy who came to his home on Saturday and asked about a missing girl. Erazo said he “believed the Deputy to be talking about a ‘small girl,’ that was in the area. Erazo told the Deputy ‘there’s no small girl here,’ and did not mention (the woman) who was located in the mobile home,” according to the probable cause statement.

Officers contacted U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and learned that Lopez-Lara is “an undocumented resident who was living in the United States illegally,” the detective’s statement says.

Prosecutors filed five charges against Lopez-Lara: two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree sexual abuse. One rape charge and one kidnapping charge, however, are “in the alternative.” That means Lopez-Lara will only face one or the other of each charge, depending on which ones fit the facts of the case, as determined by a judge or jury.

The “in the alternative” rape charge is dependent on finding the woman “was incapable of consent because of a lack of mental capacity to authorize the sexual intercourse and this mental capacity was manifest or known the defendant.” The “in the alternative” kidnapping charge is dependent on finding that the victim “was incapacitated.”

In both rape charges, the penalties are the same: life prison sentences (figured at 30 years in Missouri) and at least 85 percent of the sentence has to be served before a convict is eligible for parole. In both kidnapping charges, the penalties are the same: up to 15 years in prison, and at least 85 percent of the sentence has to be served before a convict is eligible for parole. The penalty for first-degree sexual abuse is a prison sentence up to 10 years.

“I am thankful that the victim in this case was recovered safely. This investigation is ongoing and we will continue to work to bring justice to the victim in this case," said Sheriff Jim Arnott in a news release from the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Arnott asked anyone with information about the missing woman's case to contact his office to talk to a detective.