Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Families Tell of Horrors at Raided Mexican Shelter

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Families Tell of Horrors at Raided Mexican Shelter

Article excerpt

ZAMORA, Mexico * Relatives of youths rescued by police from a refuse-strewn group home where employees allegedly beat and raped residents are telling of how they tried to remove their loved ones, only to be met with demands for thousands of dollars for their release.

Mainly poor parents and other relatives thronged outside the home Wednesday as a garbage truck finished hauling away an estimated 20 tons of trash from what Mexican authorities said was an insect- infested shelter that had housed 607 adults and children, often against their will.

Maria Valdivia Vasquez, 65, waited to be allowed in for a brief visit with her grandson, Jose Antonio Martinez, 17.

She said his mother sent him to the Great Family group home a decade ago because of behavioral problems. Relatives were allowed to visit him only twice a year, and shelter employees had recently been sitting in on the visits, apparently to monitor residents' comments, she said.

Valdivia Vasquez said that when she decided to ask that the boy be released to her, shelter founder Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, known as "Mama Rosa," demanded $5,400 for his release.

She said Jose Antonio often barely spoke in front of the shelter employees, but said once that "he wanted his mother to suffer the same thing he was suffering there."

Officials have said the home's residents were kept in deplorable conditions, fed rotten food and made to sleep on the floor among rats, ticks and fleas.

Raquel Briones Gallegos, 44, said she tried to get her son, Luis Oropeza Briones, 20, out of the shelter in April.

"They ran me out of the house and said insulting things," Briones Gallegos said. He would call her on the phone in recent months saying that "he wanted to leave, to please get him out of there," she said.

Shelter residents were still being kept at the home while officials look for places to transfer them. Federal authorities said they were ensuring that the residents were being fed properly, and youngsters were also being checked by doctors. …

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