Anyone who has ever dealt with law enforcement when they've been a victim of a crime knows that the wheels of justice move very slowly. For some, the waiting is too much to bear and when police—who are often more concerned with prosecuting people for possessing a plant—refuse to go after criminals, they take matters into their own hands.
When Lydia Lerma discovered that her son had been molested by a man who was living with her ex-husband, the crime devastated her. However, the insultingly low bail placed on her son's abuser was equally devastating as it allowed him to walk free for very little money. When police allowed Andrew Vanderwal to walk free after posting $750 bail, the family was doubly impacted. Worse still, Vanderwal fled to Mexico, escaping justice and infuriating Lerma, who then made it her mission to become a pedophile hunter.
Vanderwal had fully confessed to molesting Lerma's son. Yet even with a full confession, a judge set the bail so low he was able to get out of jail and go on the run. Vanderwal quickly found refuge south of the U.S. border, eventually settling in Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, which is where Lerma found him, almost a year and a half after police let a confessed pedophile walk free.
"The only way I can explain it is, I hunt…And when you're hunting and you see an animal, there's that adrenaline rush — can I take this shot? Can I do this?"
Lerma's comments clearly indicated the fury she felt seeing Vanderwal attempting to be a free man in Mexico. Her son was being abused by the confessed pedophile while the boy was visiting his father. The two men were roommates. Lerma's ex-husband actually walked in on Vanderwal molesting the boy, which resulted in police arresting him and charging him with three felonies: sexual assault of a child, sexual assault of a child by someone in a position of trust and sexual assault of a child younger than 15.
Vanderwal had been a volunteer at a youth ice hockey league for boys eight years old and younger but no one had been molested at the ice rink—just at the man's home, the same home where Lerma's ex-husband lived. Assuming the role of a family member, the boy was subjected to calling the man, "Uncle Drew." The abuse took place over a four-month period of time.
Upon his arrest, Vanderwal fled, but not for long. Lerma tracked him down like a hunter on a quest to kill a predator. One motivating factor driving Lerma was what she discovered in "Uncle Drew's" room. It was a box with "Drew" written on the top of it. The Coloradoan detailed the contents of what Lerma considered to be his treasure chest:
"A big black boot box, taped shut. 'Drew' was scrawled on the top in cursive. Lerma's hands trembled as she ripped off the packing tape. Inside was a boy's baseball glove, a Nerf gun, a sneaker. All labeled with the same boy's name. In plastic storage tubs beside the box, she found more: stacks of kids' drawings, primary colors and marker stick figures. Sheets of notebook paper coated in the misshapen and misspelled words of children: 'Dear Drew, thank you so much for evrything you do for me…' 'I am sorry for misbehaiveing.' 'Please forgive me.' Then there were the photos: Boys smiling as Vanderwal clutched their shoulders. Boys peering from class photos, family photos, team photos. Boys Lerma had never seen before. She sat there, crying and shaking as she rifled through what she described as Vanderwal's 'trophy chest.'