For months, Yesenia Sesmas had pretended to be pregnant, police said.
The 34-year-old lived in Dallas with her family. But on Thursday afternoon, she was more than 350 miles away in Wichita, where police said she fatally shot a mother and then kidnapped the woman’s newborn daughter.
When the infant’s father returned home from work, he discovered his girlfriend, Laura Abarca-Nogueda, dead. Their daughter, Sofia Gonzales — born six days earlier with round cheeks and a full head of black hair — was nowhere to be found, according to a statement from police.
Sesmas, police said, had fled with the infant, heading south to Texas.
After a days-long search involving federal agents and local authorities in two states, Sofia was found Saturday morning at a home in Dallas. Sesmas was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant and booked on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, according to police.
Sesmas is in custody in Dallas, but Wichita police are seeking to have her extradited to Kansas.
On Tuesday, the Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett filed charges against Sesmas, though he did not say what the charges were.
“The State of Kansas will now notify authorities in Texas of the intent to pursue extradition of Ms. Sesmas,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The Texas courts will then attend to the extradition process. This process is expected to take up to 90 days. At such time as Ms. Sesmas is returned to the Sedgwick County jail, a first appearance will be held on the charges now filed.”
Wichita police spokesman Charley Davidson told The Post that Sesmas knew her 27-year-old victim, although he did not say how. He said that although Sesmas lives in Dallas, she had spent time in Wichita before relocating to Texas several months ago. Davidson did not speculate about why Sesmas returned to Wichita and allegedly ended a woman’s life before taking her newborn.
After the infant was found in Dallas, she was taken to a hospital for evaluation, police said, and was returned home Saturday evening. But the investigation is ongoing, police said.
“We can’t forget that this is the best possible outcome to a very sad case,” Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay told ABC affiliate KAKE. “The death of Laura Abarca will be on all of our hearts in the next coming days. We want to do everything we can to bring this to justice.”
On Monday, Sesmas told Univision’s KUVN from jail that she shot Abarca-Nogueda but never meant to kill her. Sesmas, who claims she had lost a child, said the two had made an agreement that Abarca-Nogueda would give Sesmas her baby, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. But when she got there last week, Sesmas said, Abarca-Nogueda changed her mind.
“I only wanted to threaten her in case she wouldn’t give [Sofia] to me,” Sesmas told Univision, according to CBS affiliate KWCH, “but the gun went off.”
When asked about Sesmas’s comments, Davidson, the Wichita police spokesman, said he had not seen the news report and could not confirm the claims.
Responding to a call on Thursday, Wichita police arrived about 3:30 p.m. at Abarca-Nogueda’s home, where they found her body. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Authorities began searching for her newborn, whose name has been spelled by police both as Sophia and Sofia, fanning out across nearby neighborhoods.
“Our main concern right now is to locate and safely return 7-day-old Sofia Gonzales to her family,” Wichita police said Friday. “Sofia is missing and believed to be endangered and as with any newborn, an infant needs medical care and attention. The FBI is assisting with the investigation and a response team specializing in child abductions has been brought in to assist the Wichita Police Department in the investigation.”
By Friday evening, authorities had identified Sesmas as a suspect, according to police. Authorities obtained a search warrant, and in the early hours of Saturday morning, Dallas SWAT officers swarmed a residence. Inside, police said, they found Sesmas, who was living with her boyfriend, her son and her niece. They also found baby Sofia.
Authorities said they do not believe the others in the home knew about Sesmas’s plan or played any part in it.
After the arrest, investigators from Wichita flew down to Dallas to conduct interviews. “Detectives learned that Yesenia had faked a pregnancy over the past several months and then had traveled to Wichita, where she committed the murder and the kidnapping of Sofia and then returned to Dallas, Texas, with Sofia,” Wichita Police Lt. Todd Ojile, head of the homicide unit, said at a news conference.
Sesmas has been accused of somewhat similar crimes in the past. Davidson, the Wichita police spokesman, said she was arrested in July on suspicion of aggravated battery and aggravated kidnapping. A 37-year-old woman told police that Sesmas had battered her and her daughter, then kidnapped the woman, her daughter and another child. The children were ages 10 and 2, Davidson said.
Sesmas was released from police custody, and a warrant was later issued for her arrest, Davidson said. She was arrested Saturday in Dallas on that warrant.
After baby Sofia was reunited with her family, her uncle said, relatives were relieved but grieving a young mother’s death. “Laura was a loving mother, she was an amazing person,” Jose Abarca told KWCH. “I know she was only a mother for six days, but pretty sure those were the best moments for her.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help the family with funeral expenses has raised more than $13,000.
“Laura Orquidea Abarca Nogueda was a vibrant, beautiful woman, [whose] life got taken from us far to soon,” the message on the page reads. “Laura meant so much to us and we are devastated by the events surrounded by her death and the disappearance of her [daughter] Sophia. We appreciate all the prayers and will be grateful for any amount you are able to donate. Thank you and remember to keep praying for a safe return for baby Sophia while we set her mother to rest.”
This story has been updated.