Moral Low Ground


Americans Jennifer Wolfrom, Joseph Wolfrom & Meghan Doherty Kidnapped, Brutally Beaten and Robbed in Peruvian Village

Meghan Doherty, Jennifer & Joseph Wolfrom (Photo: CrowdTilt)

Meghan Doherty, Jennifer & Joseph Wolfrom (Photo: CrowdTilt)

Three American travelers were kidnapped, brutally beaten and robbed over a two-day period while on a mountain climbing trip in Peru.

Jennifer Wolfrom, her brother Joseph Wolfrom and his wife Meghan Doherty, all from Jackson, Wyoming, told authorities that they were kidnapped, beaten and robbed by villagers in Palca, near Cuzco, on December 29-30.

The three Americans were returning from a four-day hiking trek in the Asungate Mountains and heading back to Cuzco on their way to Macchu Picchu when darkness forced them to park their truck by a bridge in the village of Palca. The three shared two beers to celebrate Jennifer’s 30th birthday. Almost immediately, a pair of friendly villagers appeared. The Americans asked them if it was okay to park by the bridge and the villagers said yes. But according to Jennifer’s blog, adventureamericans, the two men began blowing whistles and using their cell phones to alert other villagers about the travelers’ presence.

“Many more village residents started gathering around us, including the man they called the Presidente,” Jennifer wrote. Meghan asked this man, who was obviously in charge, if they could camp there and he said they could. Many villagers demanded to see their documents but they refused. The trio grew nervous as the villagers became more aggressive and decided to leave. As the villagers began picking up rocks, they drove in the opposite direction from which they arrived.

Unfortunately, the road ended about 10 minutes later. There was a man there who told them they could not stay there. They had no choice but to drive back toward the village where they had encountered the hostile mob. Their only option turned out to be a bad one, as angry villagers began pelting their truck with rocks while others hastily constructed a barricade to block their escape. A rock smashed through the truck’s windshield, hitting Jennifer in the face and gashing her jaw. Another rock shattered the driver’s side windshield and struck Joseph in the face. Joseph then drove the truck into a ditch in a futile attempt to skirt yet another rock barrier the villagers had built. As rocks rained down around them, the trio used two cans of bear spray to repel the attackers just enough so that they could attempt to flee on foot.

Infuriated villagers gave chase, pelting them with rocks, hitting them with sticks and blinding them with flashlights.

“It very much seemed like a planned, organized attack with each of the villagers blowing whistles signaling other villagers to come out and join the chase,” Jennifer wrote. “There were at least 30 people chasing us and throwing rocks at us at one point. We were running for our lives for between 30 minutes to an hour through the village hills and rivers.”

The rocks started to take their toll on the tiring trio. They were eventually surrounded by villagers who beat them before kidnapping them and taking them back to the Presidente. All three were bleeding badly and Joseph’s front teeth had been knocked out. The Presidente ordered them to walk through the freezing rain to the village school while the beatings continued.

At the school, dozens of livid villagers, including women and children, urged the Presidente to kill the trio. Despite their profuse apologies in Spanish, the Americans were whipped with ropes and beaten for hours They were also stripped of all their possessions and their identity documents. After hours of abuse, they were taken outside.

“We immediately saw that there were at least three villagers that had at least three guns, one that we know was a 20- or 12-gauge shotgun,” Jennifer wrote. At least one shot was fired towards them. They were whipped some more as they pleaded for their lives. Some villagers took photos of the horrific abuse with their cell phone cameras. Then, they were taken to a table and asked to sign a document.

“They had written up their version of a story that they wanted us to sign for the police,” Jennifer wrote. “The accident report… essentially said that we had been drinking and crashed our car, which is how the car got destroyed and how we got our injuries.”

Afraid for their lives and desperate to escape the hellish nightmare, they convinced the villagers that they would go along with the cover story.

“After nearly 11 hours of being attacked, chased, beaten, whipped and held at gunpoint without any food, sleep or water, we were led back to the truck.” The vehicle had been gutted of their possessions. At least 15 villagers remained with them until the police arrived. When members of the National Police showed up, the trio told them the fabricated tale. The officers clearly did not believe them.

The Americans were transported by ambulance to the town of Ocongate where they were able to phone the US consulate in Cuzco and fill out a police report that detailed what had really happened to them in Palca. They were also treated for their injuries and required around 100 stitches between the three of them.

The family remains stranded in Peru, as their passports and other identity documents were taken along with all their money, their debit cards and their possessions– totaling around $10,000, during the Palca attack.

The trio is currently working with the US Consulate in Cuzco, which is helping facilitate their return home to the United States.

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  1. Douglass WilliamJanuary 7, 2013 at 9:13 amReply

    This is absolutely insane, I was living in Ocongate with some local Quechuans, I never had any problems, but i always felt some animosity toward gringos while i was there in 2007. Probably due to the MAJOR degradations in that region by the mining industry. There are some remarkable realativly un-researched archaeological sites. sadly locals had resorted to pillaging graves containing gold, and pottery made with clay infused with gold dust!…..

  2. Billy BeckFebruary 4, 2013 at 11:09 pmReply

    So… I’m guessing that a stint in the Peace Corps is probably out of the question now, huh?

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