Ariz. woman jailed in Mexico: 'I was in shock'

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by Crystal Cruz

CNN and The Associated Press contributed to this report

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 29 at 9:21 PM

NOGALES, Ariz. -- In her first media interviews since being jailed in Mexico last Wednesday, 42-year-old Yanira Maldonado of Goodyear, Ariz. said, "I was in shock," when asked about her arrest on drug smuggling charges.

"I'm like this is not real. This not happening ... I thought maybe that it was a set up or a joke or something," explained Maldonado while choking back tears. "I was just waiting for that to end but I realize that it is real, that I'm being detained."

Meanwhile, Maldonado's attorney released photographs of the marijuana that Mexican Federal Police officers said they found under Maldonado's seat on a passenger bus.

Maldonado's family is denying allegations that she tried to smuggle nearly 12 pounds of marijuana into the U.S.

She and her husband said they were returning from the funeral of her aunt last Wednesday when the bus they were on was stopped at a military checkpoint about 90 miles from the U.S-Mexico border.

Mexican authorities say Maldonado was arrested after soldiers inspected the bus and reported finding the marijuana underneath her seat.

Gary Maldonado claims his wife was framed and says authorities originally demanded $5,000 for her release.

The office of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says the Senator is "personally monitoring the situation."
Maldonado spoke to 3TV from a women's prison in Nogales, Mexico.

A devout Mormon, the Arizona mother of seven told CNN she's been turning to scripture to survive ever since authorities falsely accused her of drug smuggling last week.

"Reading the scriptures, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting," she said. "And all the support that I've been getting from my family, my husband, my children, and everybody out there reaching out to help."

A judge is weighing whether to set Maldonado free after authorities accused her of drug smuggling and alleged they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat.

Maldonado maintained her innocence Wednesday.

"I'm a good mom. I love the gospel. I'm LDS. And we work hard to have what we have," she said. "You know, we're not rich, but we're very honest and we always do our best to help other people."

The Mexican military officials who arrested Maldonado haven't made their case yet in court.

The troops were scheduled to appear Wednesday, but didn't show, according to a defense attorney. Hearings in the case are set to continue Friday.

Maldonado's family denies the charges and says they're optimistic the case against her is crumbling.

"We have high hopes," Anna Soto, Maldonado's daughter, told CNN on Wednesday. "So I'm just looking forward to that. Hopefully, Friday, I'm praying that she will be home and be set free."

It's a situation Maldonado said she never imagined when she boarded a bus last week to head back to the United States after attending her aunt's funeral in Mexico.

"I was at the checkpoint, asked to get off bus. They were checking for drugs and I don't know what else," she said. "They say they found something under the seat but I never saw anything. They didn't show me anything. It was amazing all what they did."

Her family accuses authorities of arresting her to get bribe money.

A Mexican state official also told CNN it appears that Maldonado was framed.

Another daughter, Brenda Pedraza, called the arrest "outrageous." Her mother was recently by her side, she said, cradling her newborn granddaughter.

"She's just a wonderful mom and a wonderful grandma and she would never jeopardize her life to lose this, to lose her family," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.

The family relies on Maldonado and misses her, Pedraza said.

"I still need her, you know, being a new mom. I still need her advice, her guidance. We've heard that the minimum is 10 years. Ten years is a whole lifespan. We don't have that time, 10 years, to be separated," Pedraza said, choking back tears. "Please, to the officials in Mexico, please do your part and really investigate, because I know my mom has nothing to do with those illegal drugs."

CNN and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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