FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A mother from Colorado traveled to Mexico to find the man who sexually assaulted her son. Now months after the trip, the suspect entered a plea deal and faces up to 24 years in prison when sentenced, according to KDVR.
Andrew Vanderwal confessed to police that he inappropriately touched a 6-year-old boy, but he didn't show up to a court date in 2017, the Coloradoan reported. That's when the boy's mother says she took matters into her own hands.
“I knew I had to do something," said Lydia Lerma, a mother of one of Vanderwal's victims.
Vanderwal initially posted bond and then disappeared. Documents show his attorney couldn't get a hold of him.
“Law enforcement basically had told me to cool my jets and to let them do their damn jobs,” Lerma said.
Those words didn't sit well with Lerma, who at the time was the mother of a 6-year-old victim. Lerma shared her story online, it eventually led to a tip, which then led her on a journey to justice.
“It was actually a family down in Mexico that saw my post and they reached out to me and figured that I had suffered long enough and I needed to know where he was," Lerma said.
The original plan was to meet Mexican officials in person, present all her research, and have Vanderwal arrested. When the FBI advised her not to do that, Lerma still traveled to Mexico to lay eyes on her son's accused abuser.
Lerma says she found him in a parking lot in Mexico with kids in his car.
“The emotions were overwhelming," Lerma said. "There was part of me that wanted to jump out and grab him myself and handle the situation. There was part of me that wanted to kill him."
"All I could do honestly was cry. I sat on the floorboard of a rental car, and I was in the back seat and I just sobbed," she said.
Lerma did not approach Vanderwal and told the FBI know that she found him. A month after her visit to Mexico, the FBI arrested Vanderwal and brought him back to Larimer County.
He took a plea deal and will be sentenced in March.
“That man is a coward, he is an absolute coward,” Lerma said.
Lerma says her son is the bravest little person she's ever met, and he's doing really well.