American woman kidnapped in Mexico freed after 8 months in captivity: FBI
Monica De Leon Barba of California was abducted on Nov. 29, 2022.
A California woman who was kidnapped while walking her dog in Mexico and held captive for eight months has been released by her abductors and reunited with her family, according to the FBI.
U.S. citizen Monica de Leon Barba's family released photos of her reunion with relatives and the German shepherd she was walking when she was snatched off a street on while headed to a gym in November 2022, in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, Mexico.
"For the first time in a very long time we have good news! I need to thank every single person that helped my family and I through this entire ordeal. We can all finally close this chapter in our lives and work on the long road of healing we have ahead," de Leon's brother, Gustavo de Leon, said in a statement posted on Facebook along with an image of him posing over the weekend with his sister, who flashed a peace sign.
De Leon's cousin, Gael De Leon, who was kidnapped in a separate incident, was also released and reunited with her family in Mexico, according to the FBI.
Both women were released on Friday in Mexico, according to the FBI.
"For the past eight months, FBI personnel in California and Mexico have worked tirelessly with the family and with partners in Mexico. Our relief and joy at the safe return of Monica is profound," Special Agent Robert Tripp of the FBI San Francisco Field Office said in a statement.
Tripp said no arrests have been made and the investigation into the abductions of de Leon and her cousin is ongoing.
"The FBI investigation is far from over, but we can now work this case knowing an innocent victim is reunited with her family," Tripp said of de Leon.
Details of how and where de Leon was freed were not immediately released.
In the aftermath of de Leon's abduction, FBI officials said they suspected de Leon was the victim of a "targeted kidnapping."
At the time, Tripp said the hostage-takers contacted de Leon's family.
A $40,000 reward leading to de Leon's recovery was announced shortly after the kidnapping. The FBI also released surveillance video showing de Leon walking her down a street with her dog in the central Mexico town of Tepatitlán when she was abducted.
"Monica was confronted by several suspects and forced into a gray Volkswagen Jetta. The suspects then drive away in three different vehicles, including the Jetta," the FBI said at the time of the kidnapping.
The videos showed at least five suspects were involved in the kidnapping, the FBI said.
The victim's dog was later found wandering loose in the street and returned to de Leon's family.
In several photos shared over the weekend with the public by de Leon's family, Monica de Leon is seen hugging and petting her dog.