More than seven years after a Brusly High School teacher disappeared, her husband has been arrested in her death and her daughter, now 12 years old, has returned safely to Louisiana.
Oscar A. Lozada, 43, was arrested Thursday in Texas after Mexican authorities helped bring him to the border on a second-degree murder warrant, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Gautreaux said. Mexican authorities also took custody of couple's daughter, Angelina, this past week, and returned her to U.S. officials. She is now in the care of a foster family in Baton Rouge.
"This is a very historic accomplishment," Gautreaux said. "It is a result of our investigators' commitment to this case for more than seven years."
Oscar Lozada had not been in the country since his wife, Sylviane Finck Lozada, was reported missing in July 2011. Oscar Lozada left with Angelina for his home country of Venezuela in the days after his wife was last seen, authorities said. In the last few weeks, Angelina moved from Venezuela to join her father in Mexico — a major development in the years-old case.
"We knew we had one opportunity to get this, if Oscar had any idea that we were trying to put this plan together and this got out, that’s a wrap," said Sheriff's investigator Maj. Todd Morris. "You have to understand the sensitivity of these issues and investigations when dealing with foreign countries. ... This was a total team effort."
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Oscar Lozada was arrested by Mexican authorities on Sept. 7, Gautreaux said at a press conference Friday. He is being held by authorities in Eagle Pass, Texas, and the extradition process is under way.
"This has been a very long seven years, for Sylviane's family, her friends and our community," Gautreaux said. "(But) this case is a prime example that there are no cold cases."
The press conference came a day after investigators with the Sheriff's Office filed an arrest warrant claiming Oscar Lozada was responsible for his wife's death. The warrant was on a count of second-degree murder.
More than seven years after the disappearance of Brusly High School teacher Sylviane Finck Lozada, authorities now allege her husband is respo…
Investigators believe Oscar Lozada killed his wife before leaving the country in 2011 with their young daughter.
Morris said that he kept in contact with Oscar Lozada through phone calls and emails for years after his wife's disappearance, but in mid-2016, that communication was terminated. Venezuelan officials do not work with the U.S. on extradition cases. But, Morris said, in mid-2017 he learned that Oscar Lozada had relocated to Mexico.
“Would I like to get Oscar? Yes, absolutely," Morris recalled thinking. "But I'm more concerned about Angelina. The goal is Angelina's safety first, and then we'll take care of Oscar. ... You have to remember, Oscar was not allowing Ms. Finck’s family in Belgium to have any contact with Angelina. I hadn’t had any contact, hadn’t seen Angelina.”
Then, he said, about two months ago officials found out that Angelina joined her father in Mexico, a country that will cooperate with U.S. officials. Morris said local officials worked with federal officials based in Mexico, Mexican officials, border patrol agents, and even Belgian officials — as Sylviane was a native and citizen of Belgium. He said this week, he received a call to pick up Angelina the U.S.-Mexico border.
“'I’m going to relinquish control of Angelina to you,'" Morris, with tears in his eyes, recalled Mexican officials telling him this week. "I said, 'I’ll be there.'"
"She's doing well," he said. Authorities plan to next reunite Angelina with her family in Belgium.
Morris said it is not immediately clear why Oscar Lozada moved to Mexico when he did. He also said it is not clear what Angelina knows about the case, but said she has been through a traumatic experience.
The warrant filed Thursday in East Baton Rouge notes that authorities have still not found the body of Sylviane Lozada, who lived in Baton Rouge with her husband and child; however, deputies note that no one has heard from her or seen her since July 5, 2011. Sylviane Lozada was a French and Spanish teacher at Brusly High School for more than a decade, in the U.S. on a work visa.
The warrant says investigators found blood in the garage of the couple's home in at least nine spots, including three walls and the ceiling. All the samples were identified as Sylviane Lozada's blood, the warrant says.
The day after her mother in Belgium last heard from her, July 5, 2011, authorities said her husband bought two round-trip tickets to Caracas, Venezuela.
Officials later found out that Oscar Lozada had purchased buckets, cement mix and large plastic bags in the days before he left the country. Those materials were never recovered and there is no explanation, like a construction job, for them, the warrant says.
Oscar Lozada had a history of violence against his wife. On three different incidents in the years before her disappearance, deputies were called to the hospital or the Lozada's residence for domestic abuse complaints, though Oscar Lozada was never arrested.
Morris said twice in the last seven years the Sheriff's Office bought plane tickets to bring him and his daughter back for questioning, but they never boarded the flights.
"He was monitoring our investigative efforts here," Morris said. He said authorities purposely did not file a warrant for second-degree murder in the last seven years because they were worried that would deadlock the investigation. In 2011, authorities did, however, issue a warrant for his arrest for felony domestic abuse battery, but to no avail, Morris said.