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Man Recalls Being Kidnapped After Dropping Kids at School: "I Wasn't Afraid of Dying Anymore"
Dateline: Unforgettable's Keith Morrison described the terrifying mystery as “unlike anything I’d ever seen."
Eduardo Garcia Valseca and his wife Jayne had just dropped their three children off at school — a school they founded — when they were ambushed at gunpoint along the Mexican streets.
The couple was forced out of their Jeep by a group of kidnappers and shoved into another vehicle, beginning a terrifying months-long mystery that Dateline reporter Keith Morrison describes as “unlike anything I’d ever seen.”
“It isn’t often we’re able to watch a story as crazy as this one unfold in real time. The story of the Valsecas,” Morrison said in Oxygen’s Dateline: Unforgettable. “We followed them for years through things that might have destroyed many families, could have left them bitter, fearful, angry, but not the Valsecas as uplifting as anyone I’ve met, all the way through the terror, and mystery and unbearable heartaches.”
The Story of Jayne and Eduardo Valseca
For years, Eduardo and Jayne had lived a peaceful life in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Their “fairy tale” love story began in 1992 when Jayne, once an actress, spotted art dealer Eduardo while at a payphone in Washington, D.C. It didn’t take long for Eduardo to invite Jayne to Mexico.
Eduardo was the son of famous newspaper baron Jose Garcia Valseca, who once founded over 40 newspapers in Mexico. By the time Eduardo met Jayne, most of that money was gone and all that remained was an old luxury Pullman train car that Jose had once used as a headquarters for his business operations.
Together, Eduardo and Jayne started a business fixing up old houses and eventually used the money to buy a picturesque desert ranch in San Miguel de Allende, where they raised their three young children and even brought that train car along.
“It was paradise,” their daughter Nayah recalled. “I remember we used to have a cage full of rabbits, like tons of bunny rabbits and that was my favorite thing.”
Eduardo and Jayne founded a Waldorf school, where art and nature are emphasized, just a half-mile down the road from their ranch.
Eduardo Valseca's Kidnapping
It seemed like an idyllic life until that fateful morning in June 2007. Eduardo and Jayne had just dropped off their children at school when a pickup truck suddenly pulled up alongside them on the small road. Soon another vehicle joined in, leaving them with no escape. Suddenly the vehicle in front slammed on its brakes and they were hit from behind by a second car.
A man jumped out of his vehicle with a hammer in one hand and a gun in the other, shattered their window, and hit Eduardo, sending blood everywhere.
“The first thing I started thinking of was my children,” Jayne recalled of the terror. “Are my children going to lose their parents right now?”
The kidnappers threw pillowcases over their heads and ushered the couple into an awaiting SUV. A few miles into the journey, the vehicle stopped and Eduardo was taken away, leaving a stunned Jayne alone in the SUV on her own. She broke free from her bindings and flagged down someone along the highway for help.
When she returned to the spot with police where she’d been left by the kidnappers, she found a ransom note addressed to her, instructing her to go home and use a designated email account they’d set up to communicate their demands.
“It immediately made me realize I needed to be very careful and very smart about the choices I was about to make,” she told Dateline: Unforgettable. “My husband’s life was on the line.”
Jayne made the difficult decision to call in federal police known as AFI, Mexico’s equivalent to the FBI, to assist her in navigating the negotiations.
While she kept the kidnapping from her two youngest children, Jayne decided to confide in her more savvy 12-year-old son Fernando.
“I just said to him, ‘you know, you have to know that I will do everything humanly possible to get your father back if it takes everything we have, everything I can humanly do,’” she recalled.
Why was Eduardo Valseca kidnapped?
The kidnappers were demanding $8 million for Eduardo’s safe return, an amount far beyond the family’s financial capabilities. Most of their money was tied up in their ranch and Jayne didn’t have the authority to sell it on her own.
For months, Jayne and her contact at AFI worked to try to negotiate a smaller ransom as Eduardo was held captive. His letters to Jayne were getting more frantic and angry as time went by.
“I am suffering more than I can manage,” he wrote in one. “They beat me, they tie me up, I’m naked, I haven’t eaten, I’m going crazy, I can’t handle this torture anymore.”
Photos sent by the kidnappers showed an emaciated man, just a shell of the once vibrant and fit man he used to be. In November of 2007, they sent a photo of him with a gunshot in his left leg after Jayne had failed to raise the money they demanded.
“It was horrible. It destroyed me,” Jayne said of the messages.
Unbeknownst to the kidnappers, Jayne was also fighting breast cancer. She traveled to the United States for treatment and then would rush back to Mexico as quickly as possible.
Still determined to win her husband’s freedom, Jayne came up with a ruse to get the kidnappers to believe she might be giving up. She rented moving trucks and made a show of packing up the family’s belongings to give the impression that they were returning to the United States.
It appeared the dramatic display worked and the kidnappers soon started dropping their ransom amounts in the emails that followed. After an anonymous benefactor stepped up and agreed to give the family money, Jayne and AFI were able to reach an agreed upon ransom with the kidnappers.
They arranged for two ranch employees to pull off the drop, but when the two men followed the labyrinth of instructions laid out by the kidnappers, one of them ended up getting kidnapped himself.
The kidnappers’ plan was to hold the man for ransom after releasing Eduardo to keep the family on the hook for more money.
“That wasn’t enough for them,” Jayne said. “These people not only want everything that you have, everything that you can sell, everything that you can get a loan for, everything that you can borrow, they want to wipe you out."
What happened to Eduardo Valseca?
Three days after the ransom drop, Jayne was stunned to look out her kitchen window and see Eduardo coming home. The kidnappers had finally released him after months of holding him in a small box with little food.
“I pulled him into me and put my arms around him and he just felt so cold. It was literally as if he was already dead and I just started kissing him all over his cheeks,” Jayne remembered.
Eduardo — who lost half his body weight during his ordeal — would later describe the horrific seven months he spent in captivity. He was kept naked in a small box, with only a bucket as a makeshift toilet. The kidnappers kept a bright light on in the box during all hours of the day and played loud music to keep him disoriented.
He was beaten, forced to write those letters, shot twice and starved.
“I was not afraid of dying because I couldn’t take it any more,” Eduardo said.
Then one night, they dressed him and left him near a cemetery, with just enough money to get on a bus home.
As the negotiations began once again to save their kidnapped employee, the kidnappers began to threaten to hurt their entire family if they didn’t give them what they wanted. Upon the advice of federal police, and fearing for the lives of their children, the family fled Mexico.
Their employee was released several months later without any ransom.
Where are Jayne and Eduardo Valseca now?
Sadly, just four years later, Jayne lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 45.
“That was the worst thing in my life, more than the kidnapping,” Eduardo said. “That was terrible.”
No one was ever charged for Eduardo’s kidnapping, although a possible suspect did pop up after being connected to another kidnapping in San Miguel.
Authorities believe evidence may connect the man — who was once a trustee at the Waldorf school the family built — to Eduardo’s kidnapping. He’s currently behind bars serving time for another kidnapping and it’s not clear whether he’ll ever be investigated in connection with Eduardo’s case.
As for Eduardo, who now lives in a suburb of Washington D.C., he is determined not to let the horrific kidnapping define his future.
“I can’t just feel sadness in my heart, you know. Life is too short,” he said.
For more Dateline: Unforgettable, tune in to Oxygen Wednesdays at 8/7c.