The controversial case of a 45-year-old man who kidnapped a 16-year-old teen girl and brought her to Mexico so they could be together has finally ended. Police located 45-year-old Kevin Esterly and 16-year-old Amy Yu in Mexico, where they had fled hoping to live together in secret. The controversial case is raising questions about the family, who are reporting seeing at least eight years of red flags warning them that Esterly’s intentions towards the girl may have been questionable.
• Yu and Esterly first met when the girl was only eight years old, at a local church in Lowhill Township, western Lehigh County. The girl immediately developed a close relationship with the man. Within three years, Yu was spending time with the Esterly family, including Kevin’s wife and children, on a regular basis.
• News outlets report that Amy was also close friends with Kevin Esterly’s oldest daughter. They spent time together regularly at both parent’s houses and were, for all intents and purposes, best friends.
• By early to mid 2017, Yu’s parents became “increasingly uncomfortable” with the relationship between Yu and Esterly. Despite their protests, both parties reassured the girl’s parents that they had only a “father-daughter” relationship and nothing more.
• The first major sign that something was amiss was shortly after Yu’s 16th birthday. Esterly signed the girl out of school late that afternoon and dropped her off at home a short time later. Yu’s mother learned of this (and several more instances when Esterly signed Yu out) when she went to pick her daughter up for school and she was already gone.
• By early February of this year, Esterly had moved out of his home with his wife and daughters. He then moved into an apartment just four blocks away from the Yu home. It isn’t clear whether this was an attempt to get closer to the girl, but many people – including the family – suspect this was his only reason for moving.
• On February 9, Lehigh Valley Academy Charter advises Yu’s mother that she was signed out of the school by “her stepfather.” It turns out Yu listed Esterly as her stepfather on school documents, even though it wasn’t true. The school sought no permission from the mother or father before adding Esterly’s name to the documents.
• Amy’s mother confronted Esterly about the exchange just a short time later, but he fully denied the rumors. The next day, he is arrested following an exchange with his estranged wife after she attempts to take his smartphone to review his Facebook posts. Police report that the altercation is over Amy Yu.
• On February 15, another altercation occurs, this time at the Yu residence. Esterly, Esterly’s wife, and Amy Yu’s parents are present. State troopers are called in to break up the exchange and tell Esterly to leave and never set foot on the Yu residence again.
• By March 15, the secretive couple make their break to run away together. Yu steals some of her mother’s jewelry and takes her best clothes; Esterly withdraws $4,000 from the bank. The two are spotted together once downtown locally, and then seemingly disappear. They aren’t identified again until shortly after police file a missing persons report.
• By March 17, they are identified and arrested in Mexico, where they are flown back to the United States in custody. Yu is returned to her parents, while Esterly is charged and held in Miami pending further advancement in the case.
• What makes this case especially concerning is the fact that so many red flags were ignored, right from the beginning. This has many people questioning whether Yu’s parents are partially to blame. It isn’t yet known whether the “secret relationship” between the two is truly recent, but it is possible that Esterly has been grooming the girl right from as young as eight years of age.