She went to the authorities — local, state and federal — but none would help her. She carted her files everywhere, like a door-to-door salesperson for whom a “no” was never final.
Eventually, she found a federal policeman willing to assist.
“When she pulled her files onto the table, I had never seen anything like it,” said the officer, who remains an active duty commander and asked not to be quoted by name because he had not been authorized to speak publicly. “The details and information gathered by this woman, working all alone, were incredible.”
“She had gone to every single level of government and they had slammed the door in her face,” he recalled. “To help her hunt down the people who took her daughter — it was the greatest privilege of my career.”
By the time the government issued an arrest warrant, Sama had already skipped town. Frustrated, Mrs. Rodríguez redoubled her efforts to identify the rest of the crew, and before long had a stack of photos of Sama posing with others.
And then, by pure chance, Sama turned up.
It was Sept. 15, 2014, Mexican Independence Day. Mrs. Rodríguez’s son, Luis, was closing down his own shop in Ciudad Victoria to attend the festivities. He had one last customer, a young, slender man browsing hats. Luis dropped what he was doing to take a closer look. It was Sama.
He called his mother and followed him, careful not to lose him before the police arrived. When they arrested him in the central plaza, Sama kicked and screamed, claiming he had a heart condition.
In custody, he filled in details missing from Mrs. Rodríguez’s investigation, coughing up the names and locations of some accomplices. One, Cristian Jose Zapata Gonzalez, was barely 18 when the police grabbed him, young even by cartel standards.