On Friday, June 13, at 9:31 a.m., a foster mother living in the 28000 block of North Desert Native Street, San Tan Valley, reported her three foster daughters had run away. She reported the girls ranged in age from 12 to 16 years old and were last seen around 12:30 a.m., inside a bedroom of the foster home.
At about 5 a.m., the foster mother checked on the girls and it appeared they were sleeping. At 9 a.m. she discovered the girls were gone and they had covered pillows with bedding to make it appear they were sleeping. The bedding appeared to be the same as it was at 5 a.m., causing the foster mother to believe the girls were already gone at 5 a.m.
The foster mother further reported one of the girls suffered from a life threatening illness, which required constant medication. If she did not receive her required medication she could die in as little as 96 hours. Patrol deputies searched the neighborhood and followed up with known friends in an attempt to locate the girls.
During the investigation, it was determined two of the girls were biological sisters and the third girl, not related.
Detectives quickly learned the sisters had been in recent contact with their biological mother; Veronica Frances Aleksiejczyk-Rivera (age 43 of Mesa), who’s parental rights had been severed in 2010.
Detectives were then able to determine that Veronica had been known to drive an older model Ford Bronco and in fact had recently been seen in a tan Ford Bronco. An Amber Alert was issued and citizens began calling in tips regarding this investigation. At about this time, an Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer located the vehicle abandoned near Ellsworth Road and Germann Road in Mesa.
Detectives were able to determine Veronica and her boyfriend, Martin Leon-Villanueva (age 48 of Mexico) were living in the 500 block of South Stapley Drive, in the city of Mesa. Pinal County Sheriff’s Detectives and officers from the Mesa Police Department began surveillance in the area. At 8:38 p.m. Veronica, Martin and the three girls were observed walking in the 500 block of South Stapley Drive and were taken into custody.
The investigation revealed the girls waited for their foster family to go bed for the night. At about 1:30 a.m. as family members were sleeping the girls snuck out of the residence. They met up with Veronica who began driving them to Mesa when the Ford Bronco she was driving broke down. Veronica and the girls left the vehicle on Ellsworth Road and Germann Road and got a ride to the home on South Stapley.
While being interviewed, Veronica admitted to picking the girls up from San Tan Valley but tried to minimize her involvement and placed the blame on the girls. During Martin’s interview he denied involvement in picking the girls up from San Tan Valley and became aware of the crime after returning home, discovering the girl’s were there. He admitted to knowing Veronica’s parental rights had been severed and that one of the girls suffers from a life threatening illness, which required medication. He said he did not report this to law enforcement because he is in the United States illegally and feared being deported.
Veronica and Martin were arrested and charged with three counts each of Kidnapping, Endangerment, Child Abuse, and Custodial Interference.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “Foster parents open their homes to children in need. It is almost impossible for a foster family to succeed when you have natural parents, whose rights were severed, making contact and plans with the children to run away from the foster homes. In this case we had a biological mother who conspired with and influenced her children and an unrelated child to run away. The worst part of this case is Veronica knew her child suffered from a life threatening illness and what the consequence would be if the child did not receive her medication. Still she took the children and did nothing about getting her daughter the medications she desperately needed.”