What happened to Baby Perla?

Published 06/27 2013 09:27PM

Updated 06/27 2013 10:37PM

PAYSON, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – The mysterious death of a baby girl near Payson in 2006 is a cold case the Utah County Sheriff’s Office has vowed to never give up on until it is solved.

On October 24, 2006, a tip was reported by a citizen about a baby buried in a garbage bag near orchards outside of Payson.

The baby was 9-month-old Perla Hilary Reyes Lopez.

The information launched a full out search of the apple and cherry orchards near the Payson landfill. Cadaver dogs were brought in from Sevier County to assist in the search across dozens of acres.

“We looked all over trying to find this baby,” Sgt. Matt Higley said. “We walked up and down these orchards quite a bit.”

The search continued the following day. Investigators conducted interviews with friends and family and searched the apartment of Baldemar Espino and Yudit Lopez.

The young couple’s Provo apartment was empty and it appeared they had left quickly.

On October 27, 2006, Baldemar and Yudit’s truck was found abandoned at a Greyhound bus station. The couple left Utah with their two older daughters and headed south to Guadalajara, Mexico.

The next day detectives tracked down a relative of Baldemar who cooperated and took investigators straight to Perla’s shallow grave.

“Once we saw some black garbage plastic we knew a baby was most likely in it,” Lt. Mike Brower said.

The relative was not charged in relation to the incident, but he was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Perla had been buried near the apple orchards for approximately eight days. Her body was wrapped in a white blanket inside of a black garbage bag.

Sgt. Higley was tasked with taking photographs of the somber crime scene.

“She did not look right when we pulled her out of the ground,” he said.

Blood matching Perla’s was found in a bathroom and bedroom of her parent’s Provo apartment.

“There were cleaning fluids out that raised suspicion on what was cleaned and what wasn’t,” Doug Squire said.

The medical examiner ruled Perla’s death inconclusive. It is unclear if she died before or after being buried in the orchards. How she died remains a mystery.

Baldemar and Yudit were charged with desecration of a human body. The FBI stepped in, but had no luck working with Mexican authorities. There was not enough information on where the couple was to follow any leads.

The case went cold.

“It went cold, but it remained active to us trying to locate where they were,” Brower said.

ABC 4 Utah Reporter Cristina Rendon went to the Perla’s aunt and uncle’s Payson home to find out more.

Perla’s uncle said he did not know any information or where Baldemar and Yudit were. He said he and his wife had not talked to the couple since before they left Utah in 2006.

He said Perla is buried at the Payson City Cemetery. A plot was donated to bury her, but the family could not afford a headstone.

Perla’s final grave is an unmarked piece of grass.

“I think everyone that worked on this case will always remember this,” Higley said.

Investigators believe relatives or friends in Utah County are their last hope to finding Perla’s parents.

“I think that’s the key to the case is the parents,” Squire said.

“Somebody knows,” Higley said. “They just haven’t come forward yet.”

That’s why the detectives will never give up.

“We owe it to Perla to find out,” Brower added. “We owe it to her and the rest of the family. We owe it to the public.”

The investigators said until they get the answers they need, they won’t have peace passing by those apple orchards.

If anyone knows of Baldemar and Yudit’s whereabouts you’re urged to call the Utah County Sheriff’s Department at 801-851-4068.

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