FERNLEY - Fernando Aguero seemed like the perfect Christian man, and for single mother Carmen Bauer he was a godsend. He even said as much.
"He told me that God basically brought him to this area and he would find his wife here," she said Wednesday. But her good fortune turned to horror nearly a week ago when Aguero, a convicted sex offender, allegedly kidnapped her 8-year-old daughter, Lydia.
"He had this planned from the beginning. He knew what I was looking for and he played every little card right. He lied to me, he used me and this is what he did," she said.
Bauer, a deeply religious woman, met Aguero at church in April. For three months the two forged a relationship. They agreed to get a place together and move toward marriage. Aguero suggested the couple refrain from intimacy. Bauer readily agreed.
She'd never even kissed him, she said.
Two months ago Aguero proposed, but Bauer, nearly 20 years his junior, said he didn't have a ring when he asked. "He didn't do it right."
When she walked away from him he became enraged.
It was the one time, she said, she saw the "charming, perfect man who read the Bible," lose his cool. He punched doors and windows and it scared her.
Yet, he was always doting on Lydia.
Bauer's 10-year-old son, Daniel, didn't like Aguero. And her friends weren't particularly fond of him either. In retrospect, she said, she can see he was beginning to isolate her from them. He didn't like to go to church in Fernley, the community where Bauer was raised, and so they would worship in Reno.
He was jealous of Lydia's father and didn't like the second-grader to spend time with him, she said. At first, Bauer said, she thought Aguero's attention to her daughter was harmless.
"I thought he'd finally found a daughter to love."
Soon she recognized Aguero was spoiling Lydia with candy and trips.
Then, a week before he abducted the girl, Bauer became suspicious of Aguero's motives. Although, "I had no reason to think like that."
She said she asked Lydia if "he or anyone ever touched her or made her feel uncomfortable." Lydia said he did not.
When Aguero learned what Bauer had asked, he "went crazy."
"He said he couldn't believe I would ask that," she said. "He thought Lydia would look at him differently."
What Bauer didn't know was Aguero's past.
In 1985, he was convicted under an alias of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14 for the molestation of two female cousins under 10.
According to Lt. John Arndell of the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, Aguero served one year in a Los Angeles county jail.
Bauer said just before he kidnapped her daughter, Aguero had been pressuring her to move to San Diego.
"But I didn't want to. I didn't love him," she said.
On Friday about 6 a.m., Aguero dropped Bauer off at her job at Scolari's. Around noon he called to say he wouldn't be able to pick her up. She found a ride home about 3 p.m. and discovered Lydia, Aguero and the family dog gone. Then over the next few hours she discovered clothing, Lydia's pictures and identification gone. About 6 p.m. she began to call family and acquaintances. By 11:30 p.m. someone called police saying the two were "missing," said Capt. Jeff Page.
An Amber Alert was issued in Nevada, California and Arizona. On Saturday, Aguero allegedly called his sister in Las Vegas and admitted he had Lydia.
On Sunday he had a similar conversation with his mother. He told someone he wanted to turn her over to a good "Christian family." Witnesses in Mexico reported seeing Aguero and Lydia there, according to Detective Rob Hall.
"We have credible sightings, but obviously we can't go to Mexico. We have no authority there," Hall said. "The information we are getting is (Mexican authorities) are working hard to assist in this investigation."
Bauer can't work right now. She is staying at home by the phone, giving interviews to local and national news programs hoping somehow someone will help her find her daughter.
She's calm, which she attributes to her relationship with God.
"I don't blame God," she said. "I know there are (evil) people that will come into your life."
And she blames herself, she said. "I look back and wonder what I missed.
"It could happen to anyone. I didn't think it could happen to me."
- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.