A mother’s tireless vigilante efforts to track down the man who molested her son after he fled to Mexico are being applauded, with the man now behind bars because of her actions. Frustrated with the FBI’s involvement and determined to find the predator, Lydia Lerma worked from a lead about the man’s location that a tipster provided. The person providing the location agreed to lure child molester Andrew Vanderwal to a grocery store, where Lerma took photos of him and then provided them to the FBI.
Vanderwal had fled to Mexico on bail, freed after posting $750 in November 2016, after being charged for molesting Lerma’s son. According to a report from the Daily Mail, Vanderwal, who was a hockey coach, was roommates with the boy’s father, Lerma’s ex-husband. Lerma’s son told his mother about Vanderwal fondling him in the home he shared with the child’s father. She called police and Vanderwal was arrested, but he ran to Mexico after posting bond a day after his arrest.
Lerma wanted the FBI and police to further investigate the man, believing that he had more victims. She explained to The Coloradoan that police told her they couldn’t go “fishing” for victims, which she responded with: “I said, ‘OK, you can’t go fishing? I can.’”
She started by taking to social media to get the word out, sharing Vanderwal’s photo and posting videos that explained how he had abused her son. She didn’t receive any leads for months, until earlier this year when an anonymous tipster in Mexico contacted her, explaining that he knew the man and his whereabouts.
Lerma gave this information to the FBI, but when they did nothing with the lead, she told the agent she had been working with that she would go track Vanderwal down herself. She was warned not to, but went anyway, along with her partner, Russ Lambert.
The tipster lured Vanderwal to a grocery store parking lot, where Lerma and Lambert hid in a van to take photos. He had two young boys in his Ford truck at the grocery store, Lerma explained, noting that she had to restrain herself from wanting to shoot him, explaining: “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?”‘
They tried to follow him after he left the grocery store, but lost him. The images they took, however, were enough for FBI agents to find Vanderwal and later arrest him. He’s in a Colorado jail facing charges of sexual assault of a child and fleeing the country on bail.
As for his punishment, Lerma noted: “Death would be too easy for Vanderwal. I want him to wear that scarlet letter for the rest of his life. I want him to have to face those other inmates, I want him to face the court, I want him to face his parents, I want him to face his peers — knowing that he’s a pedophile. I want him to live knowing the world knows that.”