SAN DIEGO–The District Attorney’ Office said Thursday that the office’s Child Abduction Unit successfully located a 7-year-old autistic boy in Mexico and reunited him with his mother in San Diego.
An arrest warrant has been issued for 37-year-old Julio Rocha, who in 2007 took his then 2-year-old son, Keoni Rocha, to Mexico after the boy’s mother requested full custody. Julio Rocha has been charged with one felony count of child abduction.
“Locating missing children and returning them home to San Diego isn’t easy within the United States, let alone across an international border,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “The dedicated investigators in our Child Abduction Unit routinely overcome difficulties in dealing with foreign governments to recover children from around the world.”
The DA’s Child Abduction Unitis contacted when a child is taken form his or her parent or rightful guardian in violation of that person’s right to custody. Investigators in the unit work with Mexico and other countries to track down children and get them home safely.
In this case, a young woman doing online research for a school project in Mexico came across a posterfrom the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childrenwith information about Keoni Rocha and his father. The girl recognized the boy as a neighbor and contacted authorities.
District Attorney Investigators were able to negotiate a voluntary return of Keoni Rocha’s with his grandparents at the Mexico City airport last week.
“It was the most heart-wrenching return I have ever seen,” said DA Investigator Carole Snyder who works in the Child Abduction Unit. “The grandmother and the aunt knew this would be the last time they saw Keoni. The boy’s mother, Leilani Masumoto, who had not seen her son in five years, bonded like they were meant to be as soon as they were reunited at the airport.”
Last year, the DA’s Child Abduction Unit conducted 150 investigations and recovered 75 abducted children from around the U.S. In addition, the unit worked 30 cases involving children being abducted from, or taken to other countries, including, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Columbia, and Dominica. In 2011, the Child Abduction Unit’s ‘Visitation Reporting System’which is accessible via the DA’s website, logged 2,096 violations.
“Over the years, we’ve successfully located children and returned them from several countries including France, the Philippines, Sweden, Germany and Mexico,” DA Dumanis said. “Given San Diego’s location, a number of child abductions involve children who are taken across the border to Mexico.”
The DA’s Child Abduction Unit assists parents in both countries. The number of cross-border cases involving Mexico handled by the DA’s Office has grown from 10 cases in 2006, to 21 cases in 2011. So far this year, the unit has opened 15 such cases. The District Attorney’s Office Child Abduction unit is only involved when a parent or other family member abducts a child involving a violation of Family Court, Juvenile Court and/or Probate Court orders.
If anyone has information on the whereabouts of Julio Rocha,who is believed to be living in the United States, please call (619) 531-4345.