Local News

Police Identify Suspect in Kidnapping of Apex Girl

Posted November 24, 1998

— Wake County investigators have officially identified a suspect in the disappearance of a 12-year-old Apex girl. Detectives say a man known as "Guatte" was living with Maria Gaona's family, and is the main suspect in her disappearance.

Local and federal investigators believe the man may have taken Gaona to Mexico. Local authorities are offering a $500 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. Federal authorities may chip in and boost the amount of the reward.

12-year-old Maria Gaona has been missing since November 16. Investigators believe she rode the school bus to her family's mobile home just outside of Apex, left her books inside, and then left with 28-year-old Baltazar Hernandez Montoya.

Lt. Gary Burrell of the Wake County Sheriff's Department says "It's the family's belief that she went willingly. It's our understanding that there was an inappropriate relationship on the part of the 28-year-old."

Detectives say it appears that the two were friends and that the man was interested in having a sexual relationship with the girl.

The FBI is working to try and locate Gaona and Montoya in Mexico. Montoya also goes by the aliases Panfilo Hernandez and Paco Ramirez. He talked recently about moving back to Mexico.


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