Kidnappers Stole More Than Money When They Took Eduardo Garcia Valseca

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It begins so normally, on a June morning two years ago. The breakfast scramble, the packing of lunches, and now they are driving their kids to school, bouncing down a country lane edged with mesquite trees and barbed wire.

At the wheel of the jeep is Eduardo Garcia Valseca, the son of a Mexican newspaper baron. Beside him is his wife, the former Jayne Rager, whom Eduardo met by chance on an enchanted evening in the parking lot of the old Sutton Place Gourmet in Bethesda, near where he lived at the time. She grew up in Silver Spring, graduated from Paint Branch High School and starred in scores of television commercials in the 1970s and '80s. She played the perky blond counter girl for McDonald's.

He was smitten, she was swept off her feet, and now here they are, settled into their life on a ranch outside the picturesque Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. In back are little green-eyed Nayah, 6, and bubbly Emiliano, 7; big brother Fernando, 12, is ahead on his four-wheeler. They pull into the parking lot of the bilingual Waldorf school that they founded. Jayne takes the kids inside.

The parents are heading home when this normal ends and another kind of Mexican normal intrudes. It takes seconds, a precision routine perfected in recent years. A white SUV appears in front of the jeep, going in the same direction on the narrow lane. Its driver slams on the brakes. A blue pickup behind the jeep rams it into the SUV.

Men with handguns swarm the jeep, smashing the windows, hauling the couple out. Eduardo gets cracked on the head and bleeds. Jayne clings to the barbed wire fence and slices open her finger. They are bundled into the white SUV. Thick cotton sacks are thrown over their heads. He is handcuffed. Her wrists and feet are bound with duct tape. Off they go.

* * *

It will not spoil the story to say right away that the ending is happy, more or less.

Jayne, now 43, was freed that first morning. Eduardo, now 60, spent 7 1/2 months in a tiny, filthy box. The couple decline to say exactly how much ransom was paid, for fear of future extortion attempts. They say it was less than $1 million. The kidnappers had demanded $8 million.

Eduardo weighed about 160 pounds when he was kidnapped. He came home weighing about 90, with two gunshot wounds, three broken ribs and other ailments.

Now, with the ordeal over, the scene has shifted to a hilltop home about an hour outside Washington. After taking more than a year to recover, the family is talking about the ordeal to a reporter for the first time. In the kitchen, they have assembled the 30 e-mails sent by the kidnappers, the handwritten notes scrawled by Eduardo to Jayne, the photos of Eduardo, emaciated and bleeding in his cell, which the kidnappers e-mailed to Jayne.

It's the first time Eduardo has seen the pictures, read the e-mails. He pores over the images with a magnifying glass, searching for hidden clues, deeper meaning. He sees a stranger, a man with no hope. "It looks like a dead person," he says.

The bloody bullet holes in his left arm and leg are easy to see. The kidnappers told him in advance which days he would be shot, and they were punctual. They would drape the cell in white sheets like a photo studio.

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