'I'm hostage to this island': Raleigh woman worried she won't be able to leave Honduras
Posted August 7
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh woman who was found innocent on drug charges and has been stuck in Honduras for more than a week is still waiting to return to the United States.
Amanda LaRoque, 51, had been checking out houses in Roatan, on an island off the Honduran coast, and was heading back to the U.S. when she was arrested at the airport late last month.
She was carrying a "can safe," a fake Arizona Iced Tea can used by tourists to hide money and jewelry while on the beach, and airport security asked to examine it. When they found the can was empty, they cut into the lining and found a substance authorities believed was cocaine. On Friday, the substance tested negative for narcotics, and she was released from jail.
LaRoque's attorney filed paperwork to have her passport returned around 4 p.m. Friday, but the Honduran district attorney must sign for her to leave the country.
That district attorney is on vacation on the mainland of Honduras and will not return to the island until Wednesday. The prosecutor also filed an "innocent but on probation" appeal, meaning if LaRoque were to visit the island within five years and faced legal issues, the government could revisit the case.
The Honduran government has her passport and is refusing to return it. She does not understand why it is taking so long for the U.S. government to help.
"We've got the most powerful government in the world, and you mean to tell me as an innocent tourist that came to this country that there's nothing you can do to get me out of here? I just don't believe this," LaRoque said via FaceTime with WRAL on Monday afternoon.
LaRoque learned that there is a chance the district attorney is now appealing the case, and that she could be kept in Honduras during the process.
"When everything came back negative, they should have been coming to my rescue," she said. "I'm an innocent person, and they are not letting me leave."
"My fear is they're not going to let me leave the country during the appeal process because they're going to come up with something else to charge me with," LaRoque said. "The only reason for them to keep me here is they're trying to find something, to pin something else on me and put me back in jail, to create new charges. I had no drugs, it’s concrete. I don't know what more I can do."
While in custody, LaRoque had to be taken to the hospital to receive medical treatment, though in a Facebook video she said Honduran police had treated her well.
"We’re disappointed that Amanda has not been able to return home yet. Senator Tillis’ office will continue to work closely with the U.S. embassy on a resolution so she can leave Honduras and return to North Carolina as soon as possible," a spokesperson for Sen. Thom Tillis' office said.
Jose Castillo, LaRoque's attorney, said he had never "in his life" seen a case like this.
"This has been ridiculous from the start," he said. "It makes no sense."
LaRoque and her husband, Brandon LaRoque, own The Goat bar on Western Boulevard in Raleigh.