FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A Colorado mother who traveled to Mexico to track down her son’s molester said she was relieved after his sentencing Friday.
Andrew Vanderwal received a sentence of 24 years to life in prison. More than 12 people, including six victims dating back decades, took to the podium in court and shared their stories about Vanderwal Friday.
When Vanderwal didn’t show up for a court date related to his sexual assault charges, Lydia Lerma took matters into her own hands. Lerma is the mother of a victim who was six years old at the time of the crime.
Lerma traveled to Mexico and found Vanderwal, and with the FBI’s help, she had him brought back to the U.S.
“I made a promise to my son. I promised him that I would find him, that I would find Vanderwal,” she said.
Now, months later, Lerma’s hard work ended with a judge’s sentence.
“This is the day that we have all been waiting for,” Lerma said.
Sentencing gave Lerma’s son a chance to share his impact statement.
“He made my life feel sad,” the boy said of Vanderwal.
Five other victims also had the opportunity to share their stories.
“After these assaults started happening, that’s really when everything started going downhill. Between sleeping with knives under my pillow, behavioral issues,” Matthew Nienhuis, another victim, said.
Nienhuis flew to Colorado from Michigan — Vanderwal’s home state — tell the court his experience with the offender.
“There was this sense of relief that OK, like, it’s out there. It’s known. I can now continue to tell my story,” Nienhuis said.
Vanderwal’s parents were also in court. They read statements on his behalf and said they will always love him.