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L.A. student murdered in Ecuador

October 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The murder case of an L.A. student in Ecuador is showing little progress.Just one year away from graduating from Cal State, Los Angeles resident Daniela Lopez traveled to Ambato, Ecuador this summer to volunteer and visit family, but on Sept. 9, the body of the 26-year-old was found in a park naked, possibly raped, and stabbed to death.

"When I saw her body, it was terrible torture," says Daniela's mother, Gloria Lema.

It's been a month, and Lopez's body is still in a morgue in Ecuador. Initially, Lema was told police were investigating the case, but no progress has been made.

Now she says she must pay out of her own pocket to find her daughter's killer, which adds up to at least $2,600 for DNA testing.

"They've got a killer who slashed a young girl's throat. She's an American citizen, the U.S. Embassy has done nothing to help," says Julie Asaskog, Lema's friend.

Araskog is now helping her friend investigate the case. She says a man who was stalking Lopez was not arrested and even though a newspaper picture shows a knife and cell phone collected at the scene, authorities have not acknowledged the evidence.

"They seem to be dropping the ball on the evidence, on a, perhaps, suspect or a person of interest, and just aren't doing the work that one would think would have been done one month after a child has been killed," says Asaskog.

"The embassy has been in very frequent contact with police and prosecutors in the case," the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

"My understanding is they have been moving forward on the case and the embassy is urging them to proceed."

But with no arrests made, all Lopez's mother can do is plead for help.

"To all of the people of the United States, please help me," says Lema between sobs, "just help make justice."

Lema shampoos hair for a living in a local salon in Beverly Hills, and she has barely scraped together the money to travel back to Ecuador. She hopes to confront authorities there and eventually bring her daughter's body back to the U.S.

A fund has been set up to help Lema pay for burial and investigation expenses. Those who wish to donate can send checks to:

Maria G. Lema
c/o Evan Patsch
433 N. Camden Drive, 1st floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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