The family of a Detroit resident who disappeared in Peru for 3 years does not give up its research

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Detroit – It’s been three years since Carla Valpeoz was supposed to be on a flight back to Detroit from Peru. She did not take that plane, but her family said they had not given up hope of getting her back.

Valpeoz, who would have turned 38 on December 8, was known to have defied the expectations of the legally blind. She has traveled the globe, sometimes solo, to explore new places. The Detroiter left on a trip on December 2, 2018 to explore the history Macchu picchu site in the Andes mountain range in Peru with a friend when she did not show up for her flight home. His family and friends say they haven’t heard from him since.

“It’s like she’s evaporated,” her brother, Carlos Valpeoz, told Detroit News. “I don’t like to use the word disappeared to describe her case. She didn’t just disappear from this planet. Someone is responsible for her abduction… and went to great lengths to make sure that she will never be found. “

After Valpeoz went missing, her 73-year-old father searched for her in Peru until he was forced to leave in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then he and his brother have been working from Vancouver, British Columbia and calling on the United States government to act.

Before traveling to Peru, Carla Valpeoz had visited 20 of the 22 countries on her list, her brother said, as she suffered from a degenerative eye disease that left her completely blind in her right eye and partially blind in her right eye. ‘left eye.

“She wanted to see as many places as possible before her world darkened, which she knew was inevitable. Everywhere she went, she studied their culture in advance and as she traveled,” Carlos said. Valpeoz.

During her travels, Carla Valpeoz enjoyed studying in Egypt, volunteering in Yemen, and teaching English to school children in Papua New Guinea. She was fluent in English, Spanish, Arabic and Braille, her brother said.

“Carla was kind and generous. She always put others before her. She was ambitious and smart, and if she was your friend, she would do anything for you,” he said.

The opportunity to visit Peru presented itself when her friend, Alicia Steele, was invited to a wedding in Lima, and “the timing just made sense,” her brother said.

The Texas native, globetrotter, and Steele boarded a bus from Detroit to Chicago on December 2, then flew to Lima. The couple attended the wedding, then ventured out to reach the Macchu Pichu. However, when the time came to head to the next adventure in Cusco, Peru, Steele decided she didn’t want to travel any further and Valpeoz traveled solo, said Carlos Valpeoz.

Valpeoz was supposed to be on a flight departing December 15, but her family believe she went missing on or around December 12.

She relied on a cane but enjoyed exploring independently, her family and friends said. She was last seen in Písac, a village, where video footage showed her at the entrance to an archaeological park.

Carla Valpeoz is shown walking along the Macchu Picchu site in Peru's Andes mountain range in 2018 in a photo taken by a travel companion.  Valpeoz's family estimate that she went missing on or around December 12, 2018.

Since then, local authorities have scoured the area extensively with helicopter, drones, cadaver dogs, sniffer dogs and professional mountaineers.

Carlos Valpeoz says that since his sister disappeared, Peruvian national police have ignored countless leads, tried to close the case and failed to conduct a proper investigation. The agency did not respond to The News for this story.

“My father and I have investigated Carla’s case relentlessly. In many cases, we have been left on our own, providing the Peruvian National Police with countless leads, ”he said. “There are countless instances where we have found ourselves with more questions than answers.”

It took the family a year for Carla Valpeoz’s case to qualify as a homicide.

“I cannot share specific details with you at this time, but everything we have learned leads us to believe that she was most likely assaulted, murdered and buried,” her brother said.

“What’s unfortunate about the way this case has been handled is that the Peruvian National Police understand this, but they have shown little interest in preventing something like this from happening again. The only reason why his case remains open is because of my father’s work and I did. “

Carla Valpeoz

Carlos Valpeoz said on December 21, 2018, that Carla’s WhatsApp had been compromised and her account had been deleted from her phone. There are four main mobile phone providers in Peru and, “to date, the police have still not attempted to probe its last location.”

While they continue to have weekly conversations with U.S. Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, the agency’s reach is limited, Carlos Valpeoz said, adding that not enough had been done. fact and that the US Department of Justice had not explained to the family why the FBI will not open an international cooperation case.

“Carla is an American citizen and a dedicated community leader,” said her brother. “She always put those in need above herself. She fought for her blind community, her Latin American community and stood up for human rights.”

The State Department’s Office of Consular Affairs said in a statement to The News Monday that: “We are aware of the disappearance of a US citizen in Peru. When a U.S. citizen goes missing, we work closely with local authorities as part of their tracing efforts, and we share information with families as we can.

“The well-being and safety of American citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s highest priorities. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need and their families.

Carlos Valpeoz said the State Department, through its American Citizen Services program, looked into the case, but the high staff turnover has brought in several new social workers who “don’t have much skill at all. way, ”he said.

The FBI’s Detroit office referred The News’ questions to the Miami office that deals with international affairs. This office did not respond to a request from The News.

They will never stop looking for Carla, said Carlos Valpeoz. Even without finding her, he said their efforts would not be considered a waste.

“All of our hard work and the terrible pain this incident has caused will not be in vain,” he said. “I won’t allow Carla’s case to be forgotten.”

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_


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