FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A Larimer County mother who traveled to Mexico to track down her son’s molester says 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 6 years old at the time of the crime.
Lerma traveled to Mexico and found Vanderwal and with the FBI’s help 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,” Lerma 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. An emotional line from the young boy was, “he made my life feel sad.”
Friday also provided the chance for five other victims 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,” said Matthew Nienhuis, another victim.
Nienhuis was in Larimer County from Michigan. Vanderwal is from Michigan. Nienhuis flew in to 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 in court. They read statements on his behalf and said they will always love him.