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One Missing Child Who Found Her Way Back Home

ON March 14, 13-year-old Dennise Guillen Robledo stalked out of the house. Dennise had broken a lamp while roughhousing with friends. She left after a shouting match with her mother.

Dennise went to the house of Gabriel Hernandez Escamilla, a family friend, a father of three teenagers. He offered to let her stay the night. One night turned into three harrowing months.

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``He told me that my mother didn't want to see me anymore. Then he said my family had moved,'' she recalls. ``When I tried to leave, he beat me. Another time he burned me,'' she says, pulling back the sleeve on her leather jacket to reveal a recent scar. ``He kept me locked in a bedroom,'' she whispers almost inaudibly. ``When the family left one night, he talked dirty, like he was going to rape me.''

During her captivity, she learned that only one of the three ``daughters'' were his. A Jorge Jimenez visited the house ``two or three times a week,'' says Dennise, and talked with Mr. Hernandez about babies about to be born who could be ready for adoption. She was told that her mother was delivering her legal documents to Hernandez, and Dennise was to be sent to Tuxpan, Veracruz, to live.

``I had worked with him [Hernandez] in the municipal government,'' says Dennise's mother. ``He told me he hadn't seen Dennise, but would do everything he could to help find her. Later, he asked me for her birth certificate.''

When Dennise disappeared, her mother, Victoria Hollman, searched the city for her daughter. She went to homeless shelters, put up posters, and paid out about 7,000 pesos (about $2,150) in bribes to the police. ``They told me that to find my daughter, they would need money for gas, food, and to pay off informants,'' says Mrs. Hollman angrily. ``They kept coming back for more.''

ON the night of June 22, Dennise was left locked up alone in the house. She managed to pry open a stuck window and escape. The next day, Dennise and her mother went to the police with Lourdes Carrizales Ramirez, director of the Luis Donaldo Colosio Foundation for missing children. Before going to the police, Mrs. Carrizales called a reporter. ``This looked like a band working together. If we don't bring the media, the police won't pay any attention to us,'' Carrizales says, based on past experience.

``I guarantee you they are getting the full support of the judicial police immediately,'' Jesus Gonzalez Real, chief of the Mexico City judicial police investigations told the Monitor.

But a Mexican daily ran Dennise's story the next day. When the police arrived at the house of Gabriel Hernandez, it was too late. He had fled, police say, tipped off by the article.

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