Jenna Leigh Roark, allegedly kidnapped the 18-month son of an illegal immigrant mother, and then tried to ransom the boy back to her
The 45-year-old Texan was arrested after she offered Honduran migrant mother a ride to a local bus station, only to turn and kidnap her 18-month-old son and hold him for ransom
Roark faces charges for taking the boy hostage last May, for holding him captive for five months, and for aiding and abetting in the scheme
She could face life in prison if convicted on the charges related to the kidnapping
Stopped by border patrol with three illegal immigrants in her car, Roark initially told agents the child was her grandson from her daughter
That story fell apart and the alleged mom admitted she was not the child’s biological mother
Confronted with evidence of the kidnap, Roark switched her story, claiming her husband was in trouble with a Mexican gang
She told agents that one ‘Richard’ in Mexico sent the child across the border and instructed her to take care of the child until the mother paid the gang $10,000
She was arrested on charges related smuggling a person and aggravated kidnapping
A woman in the Texas border town of El Paso was arrested for allegedly kidnapping the 18-month son of a Honduran immigrant mother, then demanding ransom before handing the child back to his family.
Jenna Leigh Roark, 45, faces charges for taking the boy hostage last May, for holding him captive for five months, and for aiding and abetting the extortion scheme.
According to a criminal complaint, Roark had offered the woman a ride to an El Paso bus station, only to take the child hostage and then demand $8,000 ransom.
If convicted on the charges, she could face life in prison.
The alleged kidnapper however, told her interviewers a completely different version, insisting that her husband had gotten into trouble with a Mexican gang and that she was then forced to take care of the child until the Honduran mother paid the gang a sum of money.
A report from the Texas Department of Public safety said the boy was in ‘poor health’ and brought to the hospital, then released to protective services until his real family could be located.
Ten days later, officials in St. Petersburg Florida contacted the FBI to report they had a Honduran woman living nearby who had been ‘separated from her infant son… and was being extorted for money in exchange for [his] safe return,’ the complaint read.
The woman told officers that in May she had crossed into the US from Mexico with her son and asked a two strangers for directions to a Greyhound station at an apartment complex in El Paso.
The strangers – a man, and a woman going by Jane – offered her a ride, but then on the way to the station told her they were keeping the boy.
‘Jane would periodically send [the Honduran mother] pictures and videos of [her] Son, and [the mother] and [her] Son would speak on the phone two to three times a week,’ the complaint said.
Jane first asked for $8,000 in ransom, according to the complaint, but then cut the number to $5,800.
The FBI traced the device Jane used to contact the mother, and identified it as belonging to Roark.
When the FBI showed the Honduran mother photo of the child taken from Roark, she confirmed that he was her son.
Once questioned about the allegations, Roark insisted that she was in fact the victim, and ‘that her husband was in trouble with the mafia in Juarez known as La Empresa.’
Roark who claimed that she had once been detained by immigration authorities for transporting people who had been sent to the US illegally, said the boy ‘was sent to her by a man in Mexico… only known [to her] as Richard.’
Roark said Richard had kept the boy while sending the Honduran woman across the border with two of her other kids, and that he then sent the child to stay with her in El Paso until the Honduran woman paid him a sum of money.
She told agents that the ransom was actually $10,000, despite sending messages to the Honduran woman demanding about half of that amount.
The kidnap suspect claimed that she “was instructed that she could not take anyone’s word but Richard’s that payment for the child was made,” the complaint added.
“Once payment was made, the Son could be released.”
Roark, who was arrested on charges related smuggling a person and aggravated kidnapping, faces life in prison if convicted.