Delfina Prieto, who worked alongside Lazaro at the Peruvian magazine Punto, called him "a magnificent person, a great companion." She said he always looked out for her and, because she is short, once pulled her up on his shoulders at the presidential palace so she could get a good shot.
But she questioned his origin, as did others. "I would always think, 'This guy has a European accent,'" she said.
Cesar Medrano, another photographer who knew the couple, agreed. "He said he was Uruguayan, but he had a European accent. He looked German." Yet another colleague, Carlos Saavedra, said Lazaro never spoke about his past — "but we never asked."
Does that include Pelaez? It's not known what she knew of his origins. The federal complaint says agents intercepted a conversation inside the Yonkers home in 2002, where Lazaro was heard describing his childhood to Pelaez, saying: "We moved to Siberia ... as soon as the war started(.)"
A key sign of how little she may have known: Her lawyer said Thursday his client "seemed shocked" to learn that Juan Lazaro was not her husband's real name. "I don't believe she knew he had another name," Rodriguez said.
In any case, the two were deeply in love, according to a colleague of Pelaez in Peru, TV reporter Monica Chang. "She was a very passionate woman," Chang said in a TV interview. "To her, he was a hunk."
In Peru, Pelaez established a reputation as a gritty street reporter. Then, in December of 1984, she was kidnapped for a day by members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, one of the country's main communist armed insurgencies, along with her cameraman.
It was partly because of that ordeal that Pelaez and Lazaro, recently married, left the country for New York, says her sister, Elvira Pelaez.