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Mother of slain toddler found in attic turns up in Texas

LAWRENCEVILLE - The mother of a slain toddler whose decomposed body was found in a Lawrenceville attic last summer has turned up in Texas, after vanishing for more than two years, officials confirmed Friday.

Family members say Amy Ruiz is malnourished and badly scarred after being held captive in Mexico by her husband, Christian Vasquez, the primary suspect in the murder of the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Prisi Vasquez.

Stacey Bourbonnais, Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman, said Ruiz is awaiting extradition after being captured "trying to cross the border" into Texas. She's charged in Gwinnett with child cruelty, second degree, according to her indictment.

Ruiz's family says she was helped to the U.S. border by Mexican authorities after she escaped from Vasquez's family home in Puebla, a city in central Mexico. She is a legal U.S. citizen who married Vasquez in Gwinnett, said her mother, Maria Marquez, of Houston.

Ruiz is being detained at the Cameron County Sheriff's Department in Brownsville, her mother said.

"She's not doing very good; she's not very healthy," Marquez said. "They had her tied up where she was at, kidnapped."

Ruiz was able to flee only when her husband came home "very drunk" last weekend, running to a police station in Puebla barefoot, Marquez said. Police issued a warrant for Vasquez's arrest and kept Ruiz in a women's shelter under protective order before transporting her north, her mother said.

Mexican police have not located the murder suspect, Marquez said. Bourbonnais could not provide an update on his whereabouts, referring all questions to FBI representatives, who did not return requests for comment Friday.

"The FBI has been working with Mexican authorities to get them back," Bourbonnais said.

The charges against Ruiz stem more from her alleged inactions than what she did.

Ruiz faces a count of child cruelty, second degree for failing to seek medical assistance for her dying child. She's also charged with concealing her daughter's death from authorities, her indictment says.

Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter was ill Friday and could not be reached for comment, a representative said.

Vasquez is charged with killing his daughter by striking her head with a blunt object. He was indicted on counts of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children, first degree.

Family members said Vasquez beat the infant to death with a pole.

Federal authorities teamed with local police and prosecutors to search for the couple after their daughter's body was discovered in a Stillwater Lane attic June 20 last year.

The child's body lay hidden in the attic for about 16 months, while unrelated occupants lived in the apartment beneath. Earlier last year, Ruiz had called her father in Gwinnett to tell him where the body was, and he went to police with the information, authorities said.

Ruiz's family contends her husband forced her to leave the country after his temper overtook him and he killed the child.

Ruiz is a legal U.S. citizen reared in Buford, while her husband is a native of Mexico who had not gained citizenship, family members said.

Lawrenceville resident Leticia Ramirez, Ruiz's aunt, said the 21-year-old is emaciated.

"She looks as if she was starving to death - she weighs only 95 pounds," Ramirez said. "She has scars all over her body and is all beaten up."

Marquez called the time away from her daughter excruciating.

"All this time, this is something I've had to live with, day and night, not knowing if she was dead or alive," she said.