FBI investigates reported kidnapping of pastor

| October 2, 2010

A Guymon, Okla., pastor, who was believed to have been kidnapped in Mexico earlier this week, was found unharmed at a border checkpoint.

Clay Simmonds, an FBI special agent and spokesman, said officials found Refugio Villa, 45, Friday at the Columbus border crossing re-entry point in New Mexico.

"He is back in the United States," Simmonds said.

"He's fine. Currently we have FBI agents interviewing him, trying to find out what happened. The investigation is ongoing."

The Guymon Police Department was notified about 8:15 a.m. Thursday about Villa's abduction after his family received a phone call or text message about the kidnapping, he said. Simmonds would not comment whether there were ransom demands and said he didn't know what the message said.

Villa is the pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church in Guymon, and had driven to Juarez, Mexico, to get dental work when he was reportedly kidnapped.

Simmonds said FBI agents were interviewing Villa on Friday night and trying to answer questions like what happened to him, who kidnapped him, how and when he escaped his captors and how he made it to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The entry point, located in Columbus, N.M., is about nine hours from Amarillo. It's advertised on the New Mexico's Border Authority's website as being a gateway to El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and Las Cruces.

Agents from the Woodward, Okla., and El Paso FBI offices, along with the Guymon Police Department, spent Friday investigating the reported kidnapping. Guymon police referred comment to the FBI.

Pastors and members of Baptist congregations across the Oklahoma Panhandle prayed for Villa and offered support to his family while he was missing.

More than 130 people gathered at the First Hispanic Baptist Church on Thursday night during a prayer vigil for the leader of the small, mainly Hispanic congregation, said Ralph Heiney, a missionary for the Panhandle Baptist Association based in Guymon. A man at First Hispanic Baptist Church on Friday afternoon declined comment.

Heiney said he's never met Villa, but has only heard good things.

"He is quite a man, from what everybody has told me," he said. "I've not met one person who had anything bad to say about him. He's a good man."



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