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Mormon mom not giving up on Mexico, despite arrest

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The American woman who was jailed for a week after Mexican authorities said they found marijuana under her bus seat said she'll return to Mexico someday.

But she's going to drive her car.

Yanira Maldonado returned to her suburban Phoenix home on Friday, a day after a judge in Nogales, Mexico, dismissed drug smuggling charges.

The 42-year-old mother walked out of a prison on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico, late Thursday night after a judge determined she was no longer a suspect, following a review of a video that showed she and her husband, Gary, climbing on the bus with just a purse, blankets and bottles of water.

"What happened to me can happen to anyone," she said Friday of her weeklong detention after Mexican authorities said they found marijuana under her bus seat.

The Maldonados arrived home Friday afternoon to be reunited with their seven children. Her family said she is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico. The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary while she was jailed.

Maldonado said she didn't blame her home country but Mexican authorities should do a better job of arresting drug smugglers "and not people who are innocent like me."

Her arrest and detention after Mexican authorities said they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat illustrates just one of the perils Americans face while traveling south of the border.

Kidnappings and cartel violence are prominent among the U.S. State Department's lengthy set of warnings about travel in Mexico. But there are also warnings about getting caught up in drug smuggling, either by being used as a "blind mule" who doesn't know drugs have been put in their car or luggage, or by being strong-armed by smugglers who threaten harm if a person doesn't carry drugs.

Maldonado also may have been caught up in a shakedown by Mexican police who were seeking a bribe. Her husband said police sought $5,000 to let her go.

An Arizona sheriff who has spent more than 40 years along the Mexican border said Maldonado's case probably was a shakedown.

"They've got some good, courageous law enforcement officers in Mexico," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. "Coupled with that, you've got really corrupt ones too. And that goes at all levels."

The Maldonados were traveling home to the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear after attending her aunt's funeral in the city of Los Mochis when they were arrested.