May 31, 2013 8:21 PM

Goodyear woman happy to be free

Yanira Maldonado spoke with reporters after being released from a Mexican prison facility late Thursday night.

The 42-year-old spent the last nine days in custody facing charges of drug possession. The Mormon mother and grandmother was returning from a funeral in Sinaloa last week when the bus she was riding in stopped at a military checkpoint outside of Hermosillo, Sonora. Soldiers say they found 12 pounds of marijuana strapped to the bottom of her seat. Maldonado has maintained her innocence.

A judge heard testimony from fellow passengers and relatives who saw the Maldonados board the Tufesa bus with only blankets, water and a purse. The soldiers who made the arrest were scheduled to testify in court but never showed up. Then on Thursday, surveillance video of the the Maldonados boarding the bus was played at the hearing. Maldonado says she believed the video proved her innocence.

Early Friday morning Maldonado said, "right now I'm very happy that I'm free. I'm very thankful that they did justice and they released me." She said her faith and family is what helped her survive what she describes as a nightmare, "at first I was very sad because it wasn't a good thing that I was there because I was innocent and I was going to be sent to another prison, a federal prison and it really scared me."

Maldonado's husband Gary has been in Nogales, Sonora fighting for his wife's freedom. The couple was married a year this past Saturday, "it was just great to embrace her and show her my love," he said.

On Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer spoke about the international incident, "as Americans we all know that our precious constitutional rights don't extend beyond our nation's border."

Maldonado says she does not believe an injustice was done, "Heavenly Father knows why I was there. I was able to share the gospel with a few of the people there. I was really excited about that and good things are going to be coming out of there. Personally maybe. Other people will probably say, 'what is she saying?' It's just something that the way we are, we want to share what we have.

Maldonado is a naturalized U.S. Citizen who holds no ill will toward her home country of Mexico, "I will go back to Mexico. Not right now but I need some time to heal and to get my nervous system, I need to go to a doctor or something because it was traumatic."


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