The kidnappers of a teenage girl were seeking money from a man once arrested in a major drug trafficking case when they broke into a suburban Clayton County home earlier this week, according to people familiar with the case.
The men were looking for Juan Alberto Contreras-Rodriguez, according to a highly placed law enforcement official close to the investigation. Instead, they took Ayvani Hope Perez, 14, who was found safe Wednesday after a 36-hour ordeal.
Suky Guerrero, an aunt of the victim who lives in El Paso, Texas, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the $10,000 ransom demanded for Ayvani’s return matched the amount that the intruders initially demanded when they entered the home.
The law-enforcement official, who is not being named because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, confirmed the home invaders were seeking a specific amount of money from Contreras-Rodriguez.
The girl’s mother, Maria Corral, 39, had a relationship with Contreras-Rodriguez, 40, a Mexican national who is now being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on immigration law violations.
In 2012, Contreras-Rodriguez was arrested under a different name in a drug trafficking bust in McDonough, in which 500 pounds of marijuana was seized. ICE spokesman Vincent Picard confirmed Wednesday that Contreras-Rodriguez is the same man.
FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett would not discuss whether Contreras-Rodriguez was the target of the home invaders, citing the “fluid” investigation. While agents have arrested Wildrego Jackson, 29, of Atlanta in the kidnapping, they are still seeking two other suspects.
An affidavit filed Thursday in connection with Jackson’s appearance in U.S. District Court delivered more details on how Ayvani was kidnapped and rescued and Jackson was arrested.
The affidavit said police arrested Jackson Wednesday when he appeared in Fulton County Superior Court on unrelated charges — despite being warned by an acquaintance interviewed by the FBI that authorities were looking for him.
Agents had already rescued the teenage girl, who the kidnappers had dropped off safely at the home of another aunt in Conyers, FBI Agent Joseph Fonseca wrote in the affidavit. The kidnappers had called the family Wednesday to say they were releasing her.
Jackson has had more than a dozen arrests in Fulton and DeKalb counties dating back to 2006 on charges ranging from cocaine possession to assault and attempted burglary, according to prison and jail records.
FBI agents identified him through a cellphone that was used to contact Ayvani’s family shortly after the kidnapping, Fonseca wrote.
Agents then tracked down a woman who had been called several times by the phone in question. The woman, identified in court records as “F.M.,” said she contacted Jackson at that number.
Also through the cellphone, agents identified a girlfriend of Jackson’s who said she had rented him a gray Dodge Challenger. A neighbor of Corral saw a gray Challenger outside her house on Brookgate Drive in Ellenwood shortly before the kidnapping, the affidavit said.
Two home invaders, armed with handguns, burst into Corral’s home at 2:15 a.m. Tuesday, the affidavit said. The men found Corral, Ayvani and her brother hiding in a closet. Ayvani was holding the family dog, which leaped out of her arms and started barking; one of the men shot it, the affidavit said.
The men demanded money and jewelry, and when they received none they snatched Ayvani, taking her out the back door and over a privacy fence, the affidavit said.
“(Maria Corral) ran out of the house screaming her daughter’s name,” Fonseca wrote in his affadavit. “She observed the men running with her daughter behind the other houses until they were out of sight.”
Ayvani told authorities that she thought three or four men were involved in her abduction but she said they shielded their faces and instructed her not to look at them.
On Thursday, she and her family remained in seclusion. At his federal hearing, a shackled Jackson was ushered into the courtroom to hear the charges against him, including using a cellphone and a 40.-caliber pistol in a kidnapping.
As he was ushered from the courtroom, Jackson continued to look to the back of the room at a woman who refused to give reporters her name. She said she was pregnant with his child.
A bail hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
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