tv Locked Up Abroad MSNBC May 14, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
off. my heart was exploding. my life was over. ♪ ♪ >> the year was 1999, and i was 22. the neighborhood i grew up in, i mean, we all went through hard times. hard times were normal. i needed money for myself, my daughter. i guess that i was willing to do what was necessary, as long as it was legal. my daughter name is ayende and
she was 5 years old at the time. she was staying wherever i was staying. and i was staying on people's couches. my life was completely transformed overnight. i was at a friend's barbecue when i met roy. ♪ he came in as if he was some kind of actor on stage, you know. hundred watt smile. roy was a music producer. slim, tall, dark, and handsome.
very, very, very handsome. he takes one look at me and he says, you're coming with me, like, you'll do. i thought, yeah, right. who are you? >> my name is roy. >> he wanted to take me to miami. see his house, see how he lived. i thought he was crazy. i thought he was crazy. he said, listen, i don't understand the hesitation. i'm going to take care of you and your child better than you've ever been taken care of before. i'm going to change your life. all you have to do is be my lady. why wouldn't i go to miami? ♪ ♪ miami was, wow. it was like a vacation every
day. beaches and beautiful people everywhere. i thought, like, this is the life. roy said, all you have to do is ask and i'll make it happen for you. what i always wanted was my daughter's room to look like, a princess room. just see her reaction and knowing that i was able to give her whatever she wanted now, was really comforting to me. roy was very hands-on with ayende. he was very nurturing. i liked the stability. i was happy. i don't know, maybe i'm pessimistic, but i don't think that happiness just falls in
your lap like that. it was always in the back of my mind i would have to pay for it. roy started to become more controlling. >> that girl is my daughter! >> well -- >> you can't tell me that i can't leave. i'll do what i want! >> there were times that i felt kind of like a prisoner in my own home. >> i'd like to see you try and stop me. >> i never thought about what if this doesn't work? i didn't have plan b. one day he comes in and he says, i'm really happy and i want to get back to that. the carnival is in panama now. let's go down there, and stay for a week and get re-acquainted
and start over. fresh. i never been outside of the state. i was just excited about the whole thing. his sister would watch ayende for the week. when i was saying goodbye to her, i tried to smile, and i'll be back, don't worry. i think i was more worried than she was about me leaving her for a week. ♪ >> i am jumping out of my seat with excitement. panama has a different sight and sound, you know, something i wasn't used to. i was just buzzing.
roy and i held hands and we smiled and we laughed. >> we're here? >> we were enjoying our vacation, and sight-seeing. just really nice. i didn't know that it would drastically change. i woke up the third day and realized he wasn't there. i went and had breakfast. he's not there. a couple hours later, he comes in. he told me to come upstairs. >> come with me. >> he seemed a little hurried. wasn't making eye contact with me. at that stage, i just thought it would be an argument.
when i walked into the room, i noticed that there was a bag there on the bed that we didn't come with. he's all of a sudden saying, listen, i have to leave, something came up suddenly, i have to go back to the states and take care of some business. he says, i want you to stay here in panama, i don't want to mess with your vacation. i want you to enjoy the rest of
the carnival. when the carnival's over, we can finish our vacation in paris. >> paris? >> he knew i always wanted to go to paris. >> you can't just leave me here. >> he said, listen, when you come to meet me in paris, i need you to bring this bag with you. >> i didn't ask about the bag, because when roy's panicky or trying to get something done and you're in the way of that, then he gets upset with you.
he left me a thousand dollars. he was out of the room within, less than ten minutes. he said to me, well, i'll see you in paris. i was in shock that he left so quickly. did
he really leave me? did he really just leave me here? i'm in panama all alone. the bag was like, not even registering yet. because at that moment, i was thinking, did he take my return ticket home? it wasn't there.
and then i look at the bag. i pick it up. i notice that it's heavy. there's nothing in it. i'm wondering, what is this weight to it? it could have been anything. guns. a bomb. any type of drug. i don't know. i had a suspicion it was something illegal. >> when you come to meet me in paris, i want you to bring this bag with you. >> i really didn't want to know. the mind is a wonderful thing, and you can believe anything you want to. and i made myself believe that
roy wouldn't put me in that predicament. ignorance is bliss. >> about 7 or 8:00 in the morning -- >> hello? >> -- roy called me. he just said, hey. and i'm like, hey? what do you mean, hey? how you doing? how am i doing! what do you mean how am i doing? how are you doing? are you enjoying your -- what are you talking about? do you realize you left me here in panama by myself, alone? oh, you still have money left, don't you? that's not the point! where's the bag? the bag? where's my child. ! oh, she's right here. want to talk to her? he hands her the phone.
hi mom, daddy did this, daddy did that. we went here and there. it was just a normal day for her. he gets back on the phone and says, what about the bag? yeah, i still have it, what's in it? don't i take care of you, haven't i given you everything you wanted? yes. don't study the roots. just take the fruits. he said there will be someone calling very soon. just do what he says. he hung up. i felt defeated. i felt drained. i felt numbness throughout my
>> i've never been afraid of ayende being with roy. now i am. ♪ with me in another country, he could take my daughter and uproot to somewhere else. the truth is, i'm going to have to do what he says. [ phone rings ] >> a couple of hours later, the phone rings. this guy says, hello, kahlilah, i'm roy's friend ray. i'm on my way to come pick you up.
i was very nervous. very apprehensive. i had a right to be. i didn't want to get in the car. i really didn't have a choice. just didn't look like a guy that you would mess around with. we go into a restaurant and we sit down. he says to me. i want you to act normal. do you want anything? i said no. i'm going to order you a coffee. and i am sweating bullets, trying to act normal. jose said that i had to go to san jose, costa rica, before i could get to paris.
i was shocked. i was expecting to go straight to paris and end this whole nightmare. he gives me my ticket. i had no idea i would be getting on the bus. i asked him, what's going on? what is this about? he grabbed my hand, and he says to me, he heard that i had a daughter. and he says, didn't roy tell you not to ask us anything? knowing i will do whatever it takes to get my baby back. the telephone wakes me up. pounding headache. i am so, so tired.
kahlilah, your taxi to the bus station will pick you up in a half an hour. this is actually happening now. i keep telling myself, it will be over before you know it. i'm leaving the room and i pick up the bag, and i'm realizing, this is pretty heavy. i'm wondering if i can pull it off, carrying this around with me and making it look comfortable. ♪ ♪ we get to the bus station, and the driver takes the bag out of
the car, and he says to me, your bus will be coming shortly. look out for it. goodbye. that's the only thing he said. i walk into the bus station. i waited for a bus. maybe a half an hour, 45 minutes there, i thought, by myself, but i realized that he was still outside, kinda lingering. i guess to make sure i got on the bus. when the bus pulls up, i just couldn't believe it. i hadn't seen a bus that old with no air conditioning. there are chickens on this bus. the only time i saw chickens, i was at the zoo.
we drove for, i don't know how long. it's a very hot day. i was hungry. i needed the bathroom. i had a headache. it was horrific. i didn't know when the bus would stop. we arrived at a border crossing. they said that i had to get off the bus. they say, you go. i was definitely scared. we had to get our passports looked over. my heart was pounding because they asked me where i was going. i said to costa rica, but they
didn't understand why i'm going on the bus. >> why you don't take the plane? >> i was really pushing my luck. and i knew it. but i didn't get nervous until i saw the dogs. there are these guards with these huge dogs, and huge rifles. my heart started racing, because i wasn't expecting that they were searching for drugs. okay, i'm in trouble. sometimes,
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>> they smelled our luggage. they smelled us. they told us to take off our shoes. and then the dogs went down the line, one by one. the whole time, i was hardly breathing, very shallow breathing. i was expecting to be caught. one dog after another went past me. but there was this one dog that stayed a little longer than the rest of them. and they had him check me again. my heart's racing. your heart almost explodes. he looks at me. i look at him, like -- the dog didn't pick up on a scent. they pulled him away.
may i help you? >> i asked them for a ticket to paris. they said they didn't have a direct flight to paris. but i had to go through cuba and purchase a ticket to paris there. >> you will be leaving tomorrow morning at 7:00. and they said, did you need your luggage? i was just fed up with the bag, the weight of it. responsibility of it. so i said "no." i took some clothes out from it for the next day, and i left that bag in the airport. and i thought nothing of it. >> have a nice flight. >> i forgot about the bag. forgot about roy. and for one moment again, i felt like i was on vacation.
i went to the hotel. i went swimming. i go and get a drink. and finally fall asleep. the next morning, i'm feeling really sick. all of a sudden i realize, the bag is in customs. there's no way they gonna open it and found out what was in it. at the border crossing, the dogs didn't detect anything. i was sure they must have found something illegal through the x-rays. i didn't want to go back to the
airport because right away, as soon as i came in, that would be the end. but i go to the airport. really didn't have a choice. i just wanted to get this over with. so i can get home to my daughter. i had sunglasses on because i was afraid that it would be obvious that i was really nervous and anxious. i don't even think i felt my legs moving. i was just kind of like on auto pilot and really zoned out. i take one step, and my legs are so shaky that, in my heels, i'm
wobbling. i'm biting my nails. i'm sweating like crazy. i'm looking over my shoulder. i'm thinking that somebody's going to pop out and it's going to be like a whole army of custom agents and police. i get to the gate where my plane is leaving. i'm really starting to panic. i have something way more dangerous in the bag. a bomb or something. >> next? your ticket, please. >> my hand is shaking.
i'm thinking in my head, don't give them the ticket. pull it back. ♪ [engine revving] the all-new audi a4 is here. don't bring that mess around here, evan! whoo! don't do it. don't you dare. i don't think so! [ sighs it's okay, big fella. we're gonna get through this together. [ baseball bat cracks ] nice rip, robbie. ♪ raaah! when you bundle home and auto insurance through progressive, you get more than just a big discount. i'm gonna need you to leave. you get relentless protection. [ baseball bat cracks ]
hi i'm richard lui, officials near the texas/mexico border say eight people died in a charter bus crash, four others hurt. the bus, heading to a casino rolled over. the cause for the accident now under investigation. earlier today in green bay, wisconsin, house speaker paul rooip praising donald trump, but notten dorising the gop nominee. speaker ryan says trump deserves credit for bringing new voters to the party. now back to "locked up abroad."
>> as i'm handing them my ticket, i just knew i was going to be caught. they definitely remember me from the night before. they're checking in my ticket and it just seemed like forever. i think if anyone just tapped me on my shoulder, i would have hit the roof. they say your bag is already on its way to the airplane. i just thought to myself, it's going too smoothly. too smoothly. and they just say, okay, you enjoy your flight. i couldn't believe it. i breathed a sigh of relief. there was no way to detect it. before i got on the plane, i
decided to sit down and have lunch. and i noticed a girl outside the restaurant. i thought she looks like a nice person. and i really wanted somebody to talk to and just feel normal for a minute. her name was laura. >> i'm laura. >> she was from england. she was a tourist, taking pictures and kind of hanging out. i said, i'm going to paris too. >> yeah? >> i just felt like that was fate. >> we should go. >> we get on the plane. okay, what's next now? cuba. cuba? cuba. i just realized i'm going to cuba. so we arrive in cuba. and once again, i have to
>> where are you going? >> paris. >> they told me if i didn't leave the next day, they would come looking for me. i was shocked. and i was really scared. as we were leaving, i said to laura, let's just get a hotel together and save some money. honestly, i wasn't ready to let her go. we went into the room. she's curious about the states, and i asked her about london. and i'm just sitting there on the bed and i notice that laura's bag looked exactly like mine. exactly the same as mine. same color, same shape. same bag. i'm staring at the bag, and i'm looking at her and i'm trying to picture her as a drug trafficker.
i said, no. no, impossible. no. because if she is, she's really good. that night, i couldn't sleep. ayende was in my thoughts. here i am, almost home to my daughter. i just wanted -- i just wanted my baby. we get up early the next morning. within half an hour, the phone rang. >> hello? here. >> hello? >> i hear this guy hollering in
the background. >> okay. >> she hangs up the phone. and she looks at me really seriously and she just says, i haven't been completely honest with you. i have drugs in my bag. and i said, well, i don't know what i have in my bag. i'm assuming it's drugs. i see her demeanor changing. and she says, i don't think it's a good idea that we get on the same plane. it would be suspicious. >> i have to get on that flight. i have some money. >> she tried to bribe me to take another flight. and i told her "no," i'm getting on that plane. she said, okay, i gotta go. good luck. >> panama, we are having 5,000 ahh...
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at me again. someone that works at the airport came out from behind the gate to speak to laura. she hugged them. i didn't know she knew anyone in cuba. looking back on it, it must have been her connection. >> okay. >> i saw laura board the plane. she never looked back. i didn't know that she had help. and i got worried. i didn't have help. there's still a couple people in front of me. and a guy in a black suit comes
down the line and says, would you step out of line, please. i saw that they had my bag there. >> take a seat. >> they said, do you mind, open it? they looked through the things. i'm in such denial about everything that's going on. it doesn't even feel real. i said, is my plane going to wait for me? they say, yeah, it's not a problem, the plane will wait for you. they pick up the bag. it weighed about 15 pounds. completely empty. they were confused and curious. don't look at me, your guess is as good as mine.
they take out a pocket knife. they cut the in-seam of the pocket. i went through checks, customs, dog sniffers. if i get caught at this moment, laura must have told on me. they pulled out these thin plastic bags. they cut open the bags and pulled out some of this powdery and sticky substance. okay, what now? and he said, now the chemical
test. if it turns blue, it's cocaine and you're in big trouble. they shake it up. the whole room's spinning. i'm telling myself this is a dream. i'm telling myself it will be okay. i'm going to laugh this off and just go home to my daughter and i'm going to see my family. it was cocaine all along. he says, you're facing 15 to 30 years. i was in shock about the whole thing.
they were laughing and high-fiving. almost like, yeah, we got her. like they just won a prize. like they caught the biggest fish. i'm american in cuba. this is a really big deal. i'm just seeing this really lost little girl that's about to go to prison for a really long time. my life is over. it's over. n soon. whoa, whoa, i got this. just gotta get the check. almost there. i can't reach it. if you have alligator arms, you avoid picking up the check. what? it's what you do.
roy and they're going to find my baby and this would be all over. but everyone i come across is like, your life is over. forget about it. this is where you're staying. this is where you'll be. face it. i got a visit from the intersection -- they said that roy was on the run and nobody knew where he was. but they said my daughter was at my mother's house. i was very relieved to find out
that allende was safe. i was angry with roy, because i really believed that he would grow a conscience and tell them the truth so i can get home to my daughter. the prison itself was horrific. i didn't know how i would -- how i would survive. it took me a while to get used to the fact that i wasn't in my country. that these people despise me because i was american. they didn't want to talk to me. i didn't want to talk to them. i was the only american woman imprisoned in cuba.
i received my sentencing by letter. it was the maximum that they were asking, 15 years. i was so devastated that i wouldn't see allende. i knew my family wouldn't come to cuba to visit me. i felt really guilty because i also had to take blame and responsibility for myself. even if i didn't purchase the drugs, i still participated because i didn't find a way out of it as soon as possible.
i coped by holding on to my happier moments at home and remembering my daughter's smile. and reading as much as possible. learning the language, so that i could defend myself. prison made me grateful for the small things that people take for granted every day. family and the importance of having just your necessities. and not necessarily your wants. the biggest lesson that i learned is freedom is priceless.
>> here is an american that's leaving. i think that i gave a lot of people hope. they expected me to be doing my time completely, and i did too. and it just felt really good to actually walk out and see the other side of the gate without handcuffs. i was completely riddled with anxiety, because after six years, i didn't feel like i was -- i was ready to face the states. when i arrived back home, i was elated. everyone was there.
my daughter i hadn't seen in six years, and when i left her, she still had baby teeth, and now i'm seeing her again for the first time, and she's just as tall as i am. i didn't know what to expect from our relationship. i thought that she would really be angry with me. but she was just happy to get mommy back. and i was grateful that she wasn't as angry with me as i was with myself. i never got over the guilt. i still live with it. i'll never put myself, my
daughter, or anyone else, for that matter in that situation again. ever. i told her i just wanted to spend the weekend with her, i was going to spend my whole paycheck on her. >> a planned romantic weekend turns into a nightmare for one young couple. >> i'm the youngest one in here. and it's scary, you know. i can't sleep at night. people scream in their rooms. it's really scary.