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Suspect identified in Ecuador murder

October 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A local college student went to Ecuador to see family and do some good in the community. Weeks ago, she was found murdered and her family was left searching for answers. There may be a break in the case.Daniella Lopez's trip to Ecuador was supposed to be a chance to visit relatives and help work with poor children.

But instead, the 26-year-old California State University-Los Angeles student was found murdered in September with her throat slit and stabbed to death.

Week after week, Daniella's mother, Gloria Lema, grew more frustrated at the lack of an investigation.

"I'm really angry at the people who did these things to her, so I'd like the American police to make justice," said Lema.

Lema's cause started to draw media attention. Julie Araskog, an acquaintance, began contacting members of the U.S. Congress looking for some way to jump-start an investigation into Lopez's killing.

But after weeks of no progress, Lema and Araskog say the wheels of justice are finally turning. They met with officials from the Ecuadorian Consulate Friday. They learned there may be a new development in the case.

"They do have a suspect in mind, apparently she did, she or he -- we don't know if it's a man or a woman -- did know Daniella and the arrest warrants are out, they're just having trouble finding them," said Araskog.

"He said he's going to do everything he can, as much as possible, to find the people, to make justice," said Lema.

Meanwhile, private investigator Jesus Castillo has agreed to travel with Lema to Ecuador next week to help her deal with authorities there and navigate through the country's legal system.

"Hopefully they did some of their initial investigation, and they're just now wrapping up who they suspect, and hopefully coming to a conclusion," said Castillo. "I don't know takes it takes a month in most cases, but things move slower in Ecuador."

The U.S. Embassy, Castillo says, is now providing high-tech resources to Equadorian investigators to help in the case.

As more people learn of the killing, Araskog says support for Lema, and donations, have been pouring in from across the country.

"She doesn't feel alone anymore," said Araskog. "Now she feels like everybody's behind her, and that things at least are going to bring justice to her daughter."

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