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I'm a Good Mom. I Love the Gospel.': Mother of 7 Stuck in Mexican Jail Speaks as Official Tells CNN 'She Must've Been Framed


"This is not right. I need to be back with my family. I need to be out of here. I need help."

Yanira Maldonado, the Mormon mother of 7 from Arizona, has been stuck in a Mexican jail since Wednesday. (Source: CNN screen shot)

"She must've been framed."

That's what a Mexican official from Sonora told CNN about the unfolding saga of Yanira Maldonado, the Mormon mother of seven from Arizona who's been stuck in a Mexican jail since Wednesday after officials claim they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat as she was traveling back to the US.

Today, Maldonado is finally able to speak out and describe the ordeal. And at least one Mexican official is saying her side of the story is the only one that seems plausible.

Yanira Maldonado, the Mormon mother of 7 from Arizona, has been stuck in a Mexican jail since Wednesday. (Source: CNN screen shot)

"Reading the scriptures, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting," Maldonado told CNN regarding how she's passing the time. "And all the support that I've been getting from my family, my husband, my children, and everybody out there reaching out to help."

"I'm a good mom. I love the gospel. I'm LDS. And we work hard to have what we have," she added. "You know, we're not rich, but we're very honest and we always do our best to help other people."

And while her faith and family are keeping her grounded, she still has hints of anger.

"I'm not a killer. I'm not a criminal. I'm just here by mistake because people are not doing their work," she told CNN. "This is not right. I need to be back with my family. I need to be out of here. I need help."

She was once an ardent defender of her birth country. But that's now changed. No longer are the stories of corrupt Mexican officials (the family believes she was targeted in order to produce a bribe) part of a it-could-never-happen-to-me mantra.

"I used to tell people, 'Come to Mexico. It's not true what they're saying. I go every year to visit my family. ... I come, I drive myself, nothing happens.' ... Look what's happening to me now. I cannot say that anymore," Maldonado explained. "I don't want anybody to go through this."

Her case is currently in the hands of  the Sonora state division of the attorney general's office, and Maldonado sits in a jail in Nogales as she awaits her fate.

In the meantime, at least one Sanora state official is telling CNN that Maldonado's side of the story is true.

"Can you imagine?" the official, asked not to be named, asked. "A passenger by himself or herself would have been unable to carry almost six kilos of marijuana onto a bus without being noticed. She must've been framed."

The family's lawyer in Mexico, Jose Francisco Benitez Paz, spoke to The Associated Press about the 42-year-old mother. Benitez attended a court hearing Wednesday where he told a judge that she should be released from prison.

He noted that it was a fairly sophisticated smuggling effort that included packets of drugs attached to the seat bottoms with metal hooks - a task that would have been impossible for a passenger like Maldonado.

"It was very well prepared," he said. "It wasn't something quick. It was very well done."

Mexican officials provided local media with photos that they said were of the packages Maldonado is accused of smuggling. Each was about 5 inches high and 20 inches wide, roughly the width of a bus seat. The marijuana was packed into plastic bags and wrapped in tan packing tape.

Photos of the drugs officials allegedly found under Maldonado's seat. (Source: KSAZ-TV)

Maldonado's arrest has prompted outrage in the U.S. among politicians and her family members. The case has been a fixture on TV networks with its nightmare scenario of a mother being caught up in a drug case and sent to prison in a judicial system that has long struggled with corruption.

Yanira and her husband, Gary, said they were returning from her aunt's funeral at the time of the arrest. Gary Maldonado says authorities originally demanded $5,000 for her release, but the bribe fell through. The husband was released after initially being suspected of smuggling.

"You can't imagine traveling to Mexico and the next thing you know they accuse you of having a block of marijuana under your seat, and you're going to jail," said Maldonado's brother-in-law, Brandon Klippel.

Drug traffickers have increasingly been using passenger buses to move U.S.-bound drugs through Mexico.

He described her as depressed but said she had not been abused of mistreated.

"She doesn't accept any of the accusations that are being made," he said. "She is sad because of the situation, in which she's being accused of a crime she didn't commit."

On Wednesday, an army lieutenant, a private and another sergeant were supposed to appear in court but they did not show up. The army did not explain why, Benitez said.

The lawyer said he had requested a list of the bus passengers and video of the passengers boarding in Los Mochis, and presented letters from people he described as prominent American officials vouching for Maldonado's character. He said he was awaiting financial information proving she would have no need to earn cash smuggling drugs.

He said the judge would decide by Friday whether to free Maldonado.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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