Nearly three months after she mysteriously vanished in Torrington,Wyoming, Azia Saldana, 33, has been arrested in Denver. And while shefaces some serious charges, her family says they’re relieved to knowshe’s alive and safe.
Saldana was booked into the Denver County Downtown Detention Center on Thursday on suspicion of felony possession and distribution of fentanyl, as well as an additional Wyoming warrant for earlier drug offenses.
Azia also faces misdemeanor charges of careless driving, failing to report an accident and driving without insurance. She is being held at the Downtown Detention Center on a bond of $5,000.
Stacy Koester, a volunteer private investigator with Road Warriors for the Missing, has been working on Saldana’s case since she was reported missing Aug. 26. Koester said the first indication that Azia was located was when her mother, Lisa, started getting strange emails from lawyers offering to assist with Azia’s case.
“I contacted one of the lawyers, and he gave me insight on how to look up new cases and recent arrests,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “That’s how we were able to locate her as arrested.”
Koester said the Saldana family is relieved despite the circumstances. Azia will be safe in incarceration, but many questions remain unanswered.
“We do not know what happened to her in the three months nobody heard from her,” she said. “We still do not know what was done to her, where she was or who she was with. We can’t say she was ever safe. The only thing we can say now is she’s safe because she’s incarcerated.”
Azia disappeared after telling her family she was going to play slot machines at a Torrington truck stop. In the three months since her disappearance, Azia rarely reached out to her family and could not tell her mother or the Torrington Police Department where she was or who she was with.
That Phone Call
Earlier this month, Azia called her mother from an unknown number, telling her to stop looking for her and that she was OK.
Azia didn’t tell her mother where she was, but that she thought she could be in Tucson, Arizona. There were several male voices in the background, but Azia didn’t say who she was with.
Koester told Cowboy State Daily at the time that Azia said that she wanted to come home.
Because of the phone call and follow-up text messages with Azia, Torrington police stopped considering her a missing person.
Mother Grateful, Relieved
In a statement to Cowboy State Daily, Azia'a mother, Lisa Saldana, said the family is grateful for the help and support its had since the search began for her daughter.
"I would like to start out with a big 'thank you' to Stacy Koester and her team of road warriors of Wyoming for all the time, help, support, dedication and love that they have given to me through all of this," she said.
Saldana said she spoke "briefly' with her daughter Sunday, but "she has not disclosed any information about what or where she has been through."
She also makes a plea for people to not pre-judge her daughter.
"I can tell you that her being incarcerated has nothing to do with her being missing," Lisa Saldana said. "Azia has been through the legal system and has been harshly judged by so many. These charges are from the past and (being missing) would have never kept her from facing them!
"Thanks be to God my Azia has been found. Now we focus on her and whatever it may be that she will go through and need!"
Addiction Is Real
Azia has a history of drug addiction and has gone missing for extended periods in the past, although she maintained contact with her family during her previous absences. From the beginning of this episode, Koester was worried Azia’s history of addiction would eclipse her disappearance and make it more difficult to find and bring her home.
Now, Azia faces felony charges related to drugs. There’s a long, difficult road ahead for her and the Saldana Family, Koester said, but that they’re ready to do what’s best for her.
“Unfortunately, Azia is an addict,” she said. “Addiction is a real thing. Now, we have the opportunity to help her get the help that she needs.”
In Colorado, felony drug possession of 4-50 grams of fentanyl can bring a sentence of six months to up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. With Azia’s $5,000 bond and the uncertainty of navigating through the Colorado legal system, it could be a long time before she is able to go home to her parents and four children.
Despite everything, her Wyoming family has some relief knowing where Azia is and their journey toward recovery can begin, Koester said.
“We’re going to be working on looking at the future, getting her treatment, and getting her on a much better path in life,” she said.