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Vilcabamba Home Invasion, Robbery, and Kidnapping (Ecuador)

On Tuesday, August 12 2014, an American expat couple experienced a home invasion, robbery and the wife was kidnapped and taken from Vilcabamba to Cuenca. It has been covered in both of Cuenca’s local papers: El Tiempo (Police catch alleged kidnapping gang) and El Mercurio (Investigating the kidnapping of an American woman).

Ecuador kidnapping article

article on Ecuador crime

Earlier this afternoon, the victim emailed us her detailed account of what happened. This is her story.

The victim requested the following: 

“Could you please share the accurate details of the kidnapping. We would like to help other expats understand what happened and how wonderfully the police handled the situation. We would also like to protect our privacy and some sensitive information (ransom information and personal names…) which make us a target.”
As a result, we are not sharing names or details other than what we were provided below.

Accurate Details Regarding the Vilcabamba Kidnapping (August 2014)

Here is an accurate summary of the events regarding the Vilcabamba home invasion, robbery, and kidnapping of an American couple.

The couple requests that their privacy be respected and to please understand that each time they are asked to relay details it is traumatizing. Thus it is hoped everyone will allow them the time to heal from this life-threatening trauma.

12 August 2014 at approximately 10:30pm Robbers/Kidnappers entered their rental as they slept.

(They had a guest, an Ecuadorian named Adrian, who presented himself as a cardiologist. They knew him for 9 months and thought him a good friend.)

There were two Ecuadorian kidnappers.  One told her, in Spanish, to not scream as he dragged her to the guest room to view that Adrian was lying on the floor bound hand and foot. Her husband had his hands and feet duct-taped and put into a bedroom.  She fought back as the Ecuadorian men duct-taped her eyes and mouth.

The two men dragged her to the SUV and threw her into the back seat as she struggled they slammed her foot in the door breaking a bone.  Adrian told her to please cooperate as they had a gun pointed at him and he was to drive the vehicle.

They went to Cuenca, a four-hour drive, where the men bound her hands behind her back with zip-ties and locked her in a concrete storage room with a metal door.  Adrian told her that the kidnappers said if she made noise they would come in and rape her. She was locked in that cold, dark room for 8 hours.

She prayed, sang spiritual songs to herself, recited scripture, remembered bible stories of Victory … and with each one prayed that God would bring a miracle as she also tried to prepare herself to die.  She also prayed earnestly for her husband not knowing how injured he was and that he was bound in the bedroom and would be full of anxiety for her safety.

Eventually, she heard construction noise and mentally reasoned that it would be better to be raped than murdered and soon screamed and pounded on the door praying that God would carry her weak voice to the right ears.  

Twelve hours after the abduction the door opened. About 10 construction workers and a lady were anxious to help in whatever way they could. The woman said it was a miracle that she heard the cries for help over the construction noise.  One construction worker picked her up and carried her to the construction office. The staff allowed her to shower to wash the urine off and gave her sweat pants, warm socks and a wool poncho as she was only wearing her pajamas.

She felt safe with the police and special detectives who were very kind and considerate of what she had undergone.  They arranged for medical attention and took her statement.

Meanwhile, her husband knew the seriousness of the situation and that it could end with the death of all of them.  He got the duct-tape off, removed the lock on the door, and went to a neighbor-gringo for help who took him to the police station.  The immediate police intervention prevented a traumatic event from turning deadly.

The couple was heartsick when the police reported that their “dear friend” Adrian had confessed that he had arranged the abduction for money. Within 24 hours all the people involved were apprehended and locked up. Adrian confessed his diabolical plot in court before a judge on Thursday. The police have assured the couple that the kidnappers will not be released from prison on bond, that the couple is now safe.

The special security agents and the Loja Coronel gave their personal contact information to the North American couple and assured them that they would continue to respond and were welcome to keep in contact and notify them of any way in which the special police could help.

Both of them suffered multiple bruises and swelling from being bound as well as struggling with the kidnappers.  She suffered bruises and mild contusions on her face, in addition to bruises on her arms, wrists, and legs and a broken foot.  Those are the visible signs of being kidnapped.

The signs that are not seen are the broken trust, the self-questioning of “what did I miss?”, the inability to sleep, the loss of appetite, the hyper-vigilance, the re-living the experience, the feeling fragile, the feeling of a loss of control, the loss of “innocence”, the loss of security, the loss of feeling able to judge human character, the tremors, the feeling of being stalked, the feeling of being used/groomed, and the list goes on.

“We are home, alive, safe and so thankful! We offer a huge thank-you to all who were praying for our safety. We praise God for saving our lives!”

Thus the friends and neighbors of this couple request that their privacy be respected and to please understand that each time they repeat details of the kidnapping it is traumatizing. We hope everyone will allow them time to heal from this life-threatening trauma.

**End of victims account**

While this isn’t common, this isn’t the first kidnapping of expats in Ecuador either. Crime exists everywhere in the country (as in all countries). We were victims of an armed robbery in Cuenca.

Would you like to express your concern?

Please share your thoughts and concern to the couple in the comment section below. They will see the comments here. 


Saturday 9th of January 2016

One year later, another home invasion in Vilcabamba, Ecuador ( I happen to personally know one of the victims):

Bryan Haines

Monday 11th of January 2016

Here is the report as published on Facebook (in Spanish). Thanks for sharing this info - although the link is to a poorly translated article.

Aleck Inglis

Tuesday 10th of March 2015

How odd! There is none of the "gringo blogs" that mention that the organizer of the kidnapping (the fellow still at large in Peru) was American. One is left with a buffet of false perceptions which must create sad animosities, harmful to both communities. Is hiding the truth that important?

Travis Peterson

Sunday 8th of March 2015

Very sorry that happened to you and how great it is you have had a support network. I dont always think that people need to go to jail to be punished, or to be rehabitated. Sometimes people need to go to jail so that society is safer for the rest of us.. Glad you got out of the ordeal safely!

Sheri Yohe

Sunday 8th of March 2015

The Kidnapping Trial is OVER! August 12, 2014 a kidnapping took place in our home in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. I was taken to Cuenca and placed in a storage closet in the parking garage of the Rosenthal building. Construction workers heard my cries for help and rescued me 12 hours after being taken from my home. March 3, 4 and 5 the trial was held in Loja for 3 of the four men involved. One of the kidnappers escaped to Peru. UNASE detective told me on Tuesday, March 3rd that they know his name and are still on his trail. On Thursday, the final day of the trial we thought the kidnappers might receive a sentence of between 10-13 years for kidnapping and extortion. Due to many extenuating circumstances the 3 judges issued a 17 year prison sentence plus damages for Adrian and Eli and 5 years 8 months for Raphael, (1/3rd of the others sentence) as an accomplice! There is of course the possibility of Appeal, however there would have to be some very good evidence presented to change the outcome. The criminals will not be able to get out early on good behavior and will be incarcerated in Cuenca's new high-security prison. They will be allowed one visitor per month and the visit will take place through a glass partition. These are details we were told at the Protective Services Department at the police station in Loja. (I hope what I am sharing is accurate) Even though I was a bundle of nerves and fighting tears throughout the 3 days I could not have been better protected! During the entire ordeal the police and protective services department were so considerate of my physical and emotional well-being. There was a screen between me and the criminals throughout the trial. I could not see them and they could not see me. When the sentence was to be read military men with long, automatic guns filled the center aisle of the courtroom (small as it was) and surrounded me. I was a bit alarmed and wondered what they expected. When the judge finished reading the sentence I was surprised when the police rushed me out of the courthouse and back to the main police station 3 blocks away. No one was allowed to leave the room until I was a safe distance away. Edwardo, head attorney of protective services told us Thursday, after the trial, that this ruling was True Justice from the Supreme Court of Heaven and basically (in my limited translation) this was a message to all of Ecuador that Ecuador will protect all within it's borders, Gringos the same as Ecuadoreans. Another Protective Services Lady said (again in my words) that it made a huge difference to the judges to see so many ‘Gringos’ present. That this is a monumental occasion for Ecuador and all who live here. My husband and I will continue in Protective Services for the next 6 months completing 1 year of regular police visits and services by the Loja and Vilcabamba police departments. We prayed for justice and I chose to accept that this is what justice looks like for these men. I am deeply grieved for the consequences being endured by the criminals and their families. I cried along with Adrian's mother as the sentence was read. Oh that we could all just be kind to each other! It is hard to celebrate the imprisonment of a human being. I am sad that this kind of thing is necessary for the protection of others. Sheri Yohe

Bryan Haines

Sunday 8th of March 2015

Thank you for the update - so glad to hear that this chapter has closed. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Asisstant 4

Thursday 5th of February 2015

Such a terrified story