One of the men who kidnapped a woman from her Kenner apartment last month stole a moment to whisper an offer to his victim out of earshot of his older accomplice.
“What will you give me if I help you escape?” he asked.
Terror-stricken and blindfolded, the woman replied that she had nothing to give, and she was whisked with a gun at her back into the backseat of a waiting vehicle.
Hours later, strapped to a chair in a strange house, the woman finally freed one of her hands and peeled the blindfold off her eyes, only to find a poster-size photograph of herself framed on the wall. She fled the building, leaving her purse, wallet and cellphone behind.
Those and other details emerged during testimony Friday by the Kenner Police Department detective who questioned the woman, a 36-year-old Guatemala native who has not been publicly identified, and arrested her accused kidnapper, Mario Perez.
Perez, 56, a native of Cuba, sat quietly in commissioner’s court in the 24th Judicial District Courthouse and listened to the testimony through a court-appointed translator. After a brief hearing, Commissioner Paul Schneider ordered Perez held without bail pending formal charges from Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office.
Detective Bryan Weiter also identified Eric Mendoza as the man who was arrested driving Perez’s vehicle shortly after Perez was apprehended in Metairie a day after the Nov. 6 abduction.
Under questioning by Perez’s defense attorney, Raul Guerra, the detective said Mendoza was found with a handgun in his back pocket. He was not allowed, however, to answer whether Mendoza is a suspect in the kidnapping.
Kenner police confirmed late Friday that Mendoza, a Mexican national, is in federal custody on alleged immigration and firearms violations.
Guerra asserted that police do not yet have any physical evidence connecting Perez to the kidnapping because testing has not been completed and the victim could not identify either of the voices she heard during her abduction as Perez’s voice, despite the fact that they were co-workers who had at times driven to work together.
“This is not a toy,” the man allegedly told the woman as he held her arms behind her back, according to Weiter. “If you tell, this is where it ends for you.”
Prosecutor Megan Gorman argued there is abundant circumstantial evidence to hold Perez until he is formally charged.
Weiter testified that time stamps and global positioning data on cellphone photographs that appeared to have been taken accidentally by Perez placed him at the time of the abduction at the intersection where the victim lived.
Weiter also testified about the poster-size photo of the victim on the wall of Perez’s home on Lopez Street, and police recovered the woman’s purse, wallet and cellphone from Perez’s bathroom.
Schneider agreed and ordered Perez held without bond. He was booked on a charge of second-degree kidnapping.
As for Mendoza, Lt. Brian McGregor, a Kenner Police Department spokesman, said investigators questioned Mendoza, but he did not admit to taking part in the incident, and the victim was unable to positively identify him. She was blindfolded during the incident.
McGregor said Mendoza would be readily available to investigators if they need to speak with him again.
Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.