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LA Mom Wants Justice For Daughter Slain In Ecuador

When Daniela Lopez visited her parents' hometown in Ecuador this summer, she talked to her mother every night on the phone.

One evening, Gloria Lema called and her daughter didn't answer. The 26-year-old Los Angeles woman was found dead the next morning.

It was Sept. 10 _ three days before Lopez was scheduled to return home. She was found naked from the waist down with her throat slit and her chest and back stabbed multiple times.

Nearly a month later, police and prosecutors in the Andean city of Ambato have done little to investigate the death, said Lema, who traveled to Ecuador to identify her daughter's body.

"They don't want to do a DNA test, and they don't have a suspect," she told The Associated Press in Spanish Wednesday.

She said police told her they have no evidence in the case but a local newspaper, El Heraldo Ambato, published a photo from the crime scene showing a man in a white coat carrying a plastic bag with a cell phone inside. Lema believes the cell phone belonged to her daughter.

Ambato police officials declined to comment, saying they didn't want to interfere with an investigation that is in its initial stages.

Martha Youth, a spokeswoman for the American embassy in Quito, said embassy officials are working with local prosecutors and police to move the investigation forward. She said the consulate didn't find out about Lopez's death until Sept. 15 and offered help to the family at that time.

Lema, who immigrated to the United States 28 years ago, said she plans to return to Quito with a bilingual private investigator, "to shine a light" on what happened to her daughter and get prosecutors to investigate further.

Daniela Lopez, a sociology student at California State University, Los Angeles, spent the summer at a family member's home with a cousin and an aunt from the area, enjoying life in the provincial capital, Lema said.

"She wanted to finish her degree and return to work with poor children there. She was beautiful inside and out," Lema said, choking up as she remembered her daughter.

Lema said her daughter told her a young man in Ambato had taken a romantic interest in her. She said Daniela found out the man had a girlfriend and a baby and rejected him, but he kept calling. Lema said she told police about him, but they insist they have no suspects.

"The prosecutor told me nobody can do anything for my daughter," Lema said.

She added that law enforcement officials in Ecuador don't have the forensic techniques common in the U.S. And she said the prosecutor assigned to the case, Lenin Mayorga, told her DNA tests would cost $2,600.

"I think they want money," said Lema, who shampoos hair at a Beverly Hills salon for a living. "I wanted to defend my daughter, but I don't have any, and I didn't understand because I was emotional and in so much pain."

Mayorga declined to comment.

Lema said her husband, Marcos Lopez, who suffered a heart attack last year, is taking the loss of their only daughter very hard.

"He can't go out. He can't accept reality," she said. "I'm worried for him, but I have to go back to Ecuador and pursue justice for my child."


Associated Press Writers Gonzalo Solano and Jeanneth Valdivieso in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.

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