One year later: Raleigh woman credits media attention for helping her escape Honduras
Amanda LaRoque used to be a world traveler, but these days she is sticking much closer to home.
LaRoque, of Raleigh, had been checking out houses in Roatan, an island off the Honduran coast, and was heading back to the U.S. when she was arrested at the airport in late July 2017.
She was carrying a “can safe,” a fake Arizona Iced Tea can used by tourists to hide money and jewelry while on the beach, and airport security asked to examine it. When they found the can was empty, they cut into the lining and found a substance authorities believed was cocaine.
The substance tested negative for narcotics.
LaRoque was held in Honduras for 11 days.
This week, she said she has been reminded of the ordeal because of the “memories” on her Facebook page from one year ago.
“I haven’t allowed myself to look back at it until now,” LaRoque said.
In an interview Tuesday, she remembered the moments of chaos as she quickly realized police officers were convinced she was smuggling drugs.
LaRoque had already cleared customs when she said employees at the airport decided to randomly pull some luggage. The “can safe” quickly became a point of interest.
She and her friend, along with multiple police officers, embarked on what she described as an hour-long drive in the “dead of night” to the jail, which is called “the cage.”
“They took us into the jungle,” she said. “They took me to this place called the cage. A 8-foot-by-12-foot cell. There was no air conditioning, no electricity and no running water.”
Locals brought her water, food and a mattress.
“It was really, really scary, and I didn’t know when I was going to get out,” LaRoque said.
LaRoque’s friend posted the ordeal on Facebook. WRAL News spoke to LaRoque via FaceTime after she was finally released from jail, but before she was allowed to leave Honduras.
“The response on Facebook was crazy,” she said.
The story eventually got the attention of officials in the United States embassy.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if I didn’t get as much publicity as it did, I probably would still be there,” LaRoque said.
A judge dismissed the charges after the substance tested negative for drugs and LaRoque got her passport back with the help of an attorney. She immediately flew home.
Now, she says she’s sticking close to home.
“Yeah, we’re just going to stay here,” she joked.
LaRoque stays in contact with the locals who helped her in Roatan. She has even sent supplies to children in need.
Her legal troubles with Honduras continued months after she returned home. She said she has spent about $50,000 total on legal fees.