Juan Vaquero recognized a familiar voice as soon as he heard it, which led to a shocking discovery. The woman he rents a camper from has grandchildren and the voice belonged to a 6-year-old boy. Vaquero quickly called the cops. When Dallas police got the incredibly serious anonymous report, they headed over to have a talk to Esmeralda Lira. At the sprawling property, it was clear she was trying to play dumb, thinking they would believe that her grandson “was with his mother.” They didn’t. It wasn’t long before they found Mr. Vaquero.
A shocking discovery in the dark
As he was coming home after dark, Juan Vaquero heard the boy calling his name. Poking around with his phone’s flashlight didn’t help, but he followed the sound of the boy’s voice to small shed behind his camper. It was padlocked. “I couldn’t understand it,” he relates. Juan’s cell phone came in handy that night. He used it to record a conversation with the boy through the door.
He soon made the discovery that the boy had been imprisoned for hours. He had been locked in “since six in the afternoon” and it was 10:00 p.m. by then. Vaquero asked the obvious, “Were you misbehaving with her or why did she shut you in there?” It turned out that it wasn’t the first time. “It’s been since you gave me a pillow and blanket. That was the first day she put me in this room.” Vaquero was astounded. “Do you have blankets? A bed?” No, the child replied, “I can walk, but I can’t move my hands and touch.”
The concerned tenant couldn’t believe that she actually tied his hands. “But why would she tie them up?” The boy replied, “Because she didn’t want me grabbing things anymore.” With school out from Covid-19 the boy had been “stealing” food from the cupboard. It turned out that the boy hadn’t eaten since morning. “She lets me out in the morning. I’ll take a bath.”
Time to call the police
That’s when Vaquero called in the police. When they arrived, they found Esmeralda Lira and her boyfriend, Jose Balderas, along with and two children, ages 4 and 7. Vaquero led them to the shed and explained his discovery. The police had to threaten to break down the door before 53-year-old Esmeralda would produce a key. What they found was horrific.
“Standing alone in the pitch dark shed,” police write in their report, they found the boy with “his hands tied behind his back with shoelaces.” The bonds were so tight there were “ligature marks on both his wrists from being tied up.” Then there were the “rats and insects.”
The tiny shed was so cluttered that there could not have been more than two square feet of space for the boy to stand in. The grandmother and her boyfriend were arrested for endangering a child. It turned out this had been going on for “at least two weeks.”
Mr. Vaquero says “I did what I had to do.” Now he’s looking for a new home. Turning your landlord in to the police isn’t good for harmonious domestic relations. “It’s okay,” he assures, he “can find a new home.”