May 29, 2013 8:58 PM by Lorraine Rivera

Phoenix area woman still being held in Mexican jail

NOGALES - The Mexican soldiers who were expected to testify in the case against the Goodyear woman accused of carrying 12 pounds of marijuana did not show up to a hearing Wednesday.

Yanira Maldonado has been in the custody of Mexican authorities since last Wednesday. The 42-year-old was returning with her husband from a funeral in Sinaloa when the Tufesa bus she was on was stopped at a military checkpoint and searched by Mexican soldiers. The soldiers reportedly found the marijuana strapped to the bottom of Yanira's seat. Authorities initially arrested Yanira's husband, Gary, but he was released and she was kept in custody.

Family members say Yanira is a devout Mormon and mother of seven children and two grandchildren. They said she does not have a criminal history.

A hearing will decide whether or not the case should go to trial. However, sources tell News 4 Tucson that if the soldiers did not show up to testify, it could mean the case could be thrown out.

Brandon Klippel, a family spokesman, released a statement Wednesday morning, saying "This is the crux of the prosecution, so today is key. Yesterday we had 2 witnesses from the bus testify that Gary and Yanira did not have anything with them when they boarded the bus and two family witnesses testified regarding the details surrounding the funeral."

Meantime the Mexican Embassy released a statement:? "The Government of Mexico is in close communication with the U.S. Government to guarantee Mrs. Maldonado's right to Consular assistance. Our Embassy in Washington is also in direct contact with Senator Jeff Flake. Mrs Maldonado?s rights to a defense counsel and due process are being observed. As the process is ongoing and a preliminary decision by the judge is due soon, no further comments will be made at this time."

Yanira spoke with several media outlets Wednesday while in the Mexican prison and said she remained hopeful. She also said she is urging her family and friends to pray for her release. Yanira told one reporter she would never return to Mexico. Yanira was born in Mexico and was naturalized as a U.S. Citizen nearly 20 years ago.


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