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The Missing: Guadalupe Barajas Castro

          Our next post for Hispanic Heritage Month brings us to Washington State in 2001, where a young mother, pregnant with her second child, disappeared after a shopping trip. It was believed that Guadalupe’s husband went missing with her on that fateful day in 2001 – until he was found alive and well in 2020, living with family in Guadalajara, Mexico. What happened to Guadalupe Barajas Castro? Let’s explore.

Who Is Guadalupe?

          Guadalupe Barajas Castro was born on August 28, 1978. Very little is publicly known about her childhood and personal life, though by all accounts she is a caring mother. She is Hispanic, with black hair and dark eyes. She stands at around 5’4 tall and weighed around 150 lbs at the time of her disappearance. She has pierced ears, and her nickname is Lupita. She was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and the pregnancy was considered high risk. It is unknown what she was wearing on the day of her disappearance.

The Disappearance

          On November 26, 2001, Guadalupe planned to go shopping with her three-year-old daughter, Agueda. They were joined by Agueda’s father and Guadalupe’s estranged husband, Gregario Ibal. Guadalupe and Ibal had been on the outs for about a year prior to November 2002, with she and their daughter living with her parents. However, with the birth of their second child nigh, Guadalupe was apparently open to reconciliation. The purpose of the November 26 shopping trip was to buy clothes for the new baby. It is unknown if they ever made it to the stores they planned to visit that day (at least, as far as my research can tell), but Guadalupe has never been seen again.

(One of the most recent pictures of Guadalupe.
via the CA Department of Justice)

The Investigation

          At first, it was believed that Guadalupe, Agueda, and Ibal all went missing on November 26, 2001. The Jeep Grand Cherokee that the trio were last known to be in was found later in Kerman, CA at the residence of one of Ibal’s relatives. It is unknown the exact date on which it was found, or how long it had been there. Searches of the missing persons residences found that no clothes or other necessities were missing.
            It was originally posited that the couple may have headed back to Mexico, where both were originally from. However, the possibility of this happening diminished as it became apparent that Guadalupe had established a happy life in Washington, with close relationships and a job. It seemed incredibly unlikely that she would immediately go no-contact with everyone she had ever known, and use the excuse of the shopping trip to slip away. Especially as she was so far along in her pregnancy.
          The only possibly credible tip the investigation came in the form of an anonymous phone call. The call went directly to the family, which I find strange, as I have not read anywhere that the family publicly published their number to receive tips. The caller claimed that Guadalupe was sick somewhere in Arizona. The call was traced to Tucson, but no other information came from this call.
          In the course of this investigation, Ibal’s family claimed that his sister also went missing alongside the couple and their child, though there is no evidence of this, and no photos of her to show. After this, searches continued, but lost steam after no sign of Guadalupe getting medical treatment to give birth. There was no sign of Ibal, Agueda, or Guadalupe, and no clues until a major break in the case came in 2020. Ibal was discovered to be living in Jalisco, Mexico…with a now-grown Agueda. Once it was confirmed through DNA testing that the young woman was Agueda, she was issued a passport. There is no information publicly available (that I could find) regarding what happened to Ibal or Agueda after this discovery, but at least she was found safe. That’s something we don’t get to see too often with these cases.

Theories

          With the amount of evidence here, this is another case in which everyone is pretty sure what happened, at least in the broad sense. The fact that the car was found abandoned and no sign of Guadalupe going to a hospital to give birth – remember, she was eight and a half months pregnant with a high risk pregnancy – points to the worst. She was last seen with a man who vanished to another country for nearly twenty years. It’s easy to see why Ibal is considered by most to be the main and only suspect in this disappearance.
          However, some do theorize that there was a serial killer active around this time along the west coast targeting pregnant women. You may remember the case of Evelyn Hernandez, which we covered back in November of 2020. Evelyn was reported missing on May 7, 2002 by the father of her unborn child. Her remains were found in July of that year beneath the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Most of these pregnant victims were located in Northern California, but it is possible this potential serial killer began further north in Washington.
          As usual, I’d like to apply Occam’s Razor here. Could it have been a random crime of opportunity? Yes. Could it have been a serial killer? Sure, anything can happen. But the fact is that the leading cause of death for pregnant women is domestic violence at the hands of their partner – and, unfortunately, that’s what all signs seem to be pointing to here.

Investigating Agencies

          If you or anyone you know have information on the disappearance, potential murder, or whereabouts of Guadalupe or Agueda, please contact the Longview Police Department at 360-577-3098. Even if there is a general idea of what happened to them, they need to be brought home to their family.

Sources

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