ATLANTA, Ga. — The family of Ayvani Perez rejoiced when the Georgia teen was found alive. It was a happy outcome to a horrifying home-invasion-turned abduction.
But authorities say there’s more to the story: a connection between one of the suspects and Ayvani’s mom. The two were once arrested together during a drug bust.
Ayvani’s mother, Maria Corral, and Juan Alberto Contreras-Rodriguez were among five people arrested during a drug raid in 2012 in Henry County, south of Atlanta, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents told CNN affiliate WSB-TV.
Drug agents found 500 pounds of marijuana in the home where the bust took place, WSB said. All were charged with trafficking marijuana.
While charges against Corral and Contreras-Rodriguez were later dropped, the development indicates this week’s kidnapping may not be as random as authorities first thought.
The abduction started as a home invasion early Tuesday morning when two armed men pried open the family’s back door.
Corral told investigators she tried to hide her two children, but the gunman found them and demanded money and jewelry. They took Ayvani when the family failed to meet their demands.
Police also say the two men shot the family dog, which survived. These two suspects remain at large and are the men pictured in sketches FBI investigators released this week.
Ayvani was recovered Wednesday in Conyers, about 25 miles from her home in Ellenwood.
Two other suspects
The same day, police say, they arrested two other suspects: Contreras-Rodriguez and Wildrego Jackson, a 29-year-old Atlanta man.
Jackson is being held on charges of conspiracy to kidnap. Contreras-Rodriguez, a 40-year-old Mexican national, is being held on immigration-related charges.
“This is a good day for the Perez family, but more importantly for Ayvani,” Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter said. “She is safe.”
Federal and local authorities remain mum on most of the details of the case, saying the investigation is still active.
Unknown is how agents tracked Ayvani to the Conyers home and how Contreras-Rodriguez and Jackson were captured.
Porter would only say it happened “through hardcore police work.”
Given the connection between Corral and Contreras-Rodriguez, investigators are certain to have some hardcore questions for both of them.
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