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AP Exclusive: Boy, 13, tells of journey to Mexico with ex-teacher

JANITZIO, Mexico (AP) -- The 13-year-old boy who fled a Nebraska meatpacking town with a middle-school teacher told The Associated Press how her friendship led to sex and a rambling journey to nowhere that now has them both facing fates they never wanted.

The boy, an illegal Mexican immigrant, may never return to the country he's considered home. The 25-year-old teacher, Kelsey Peterson, is in a California jail on charges of crossing state lines with the intention of having sex with a minor.

Their trip began nearly two weeks ago in Lexington, Neb., about 200 miles west of Omaha, where the boy, now in eighth grade, left with his sixth-grade teacher. He watched movies on a DVD player while she drove west to California, then south to Mexico.

The boy said the trip was Peterson's idea, but quickly added he went along. He had told her he wanted to visit his birthplace in Penjamo, a town in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, where his father still lives.

"I had problems in Lexington and I wanted to get away, but it was a bad idea," he said Tuesday afternoon after lunching on beef tacos. "Now I can't go back."

The boy said he had sex with the teacher while they were living in Lexington, a town that has seen a large influx of Mexican immigrants.

"It didn't happen that many times," he said. "It happened maybe twice, I think."

The boy spoke on the patio of a family friend's house with views of alfalfa fields and a brown-and-turquoise Catholic church in this small farming village of dirt roads. The family took him in after Mexican authorities found him and Peterson Friday at a mall parking lot in the nearby Mexican border city of Mexicali.

The boy wore knee-length shorts and a T-shirt, cropped black hair, earrings and a tattoo of a cross on the knuckle of his right middle finger. He occasionally pulled a cell phone from his pocket. He spoke flawless English; his Spanish is limited.

The AP had previously named the boy, but later removed his name because recent charges allege he was the victim of a sex crime.

The boy called his former teacher "my best friend" but said she wasn't a girlfriend.

"I could tell her anything," he said. "She would listen."

The Mexican official who captured the pair with the aid of a GPS-enabled cell phone said the boy shed no tears while his former teacher wept when the two parted Friday night at the police station.

"She said to the youngster that she loved him and would always love him in her heart," said Alfredo Arenas Moreno of the Baja California state police.

Arenas said the woman admitted a sexual relationship with the boy but felt it was unfair that she would be branded a predator and separated from her 8-year-old daughter.

"She said her life was basically over but if she had a chance to do things differently she wouldn't," Arenas told the AP.

The Mexican official said the boy had no money and no identification while Peterson had $400. The trunk of the car was loaded with clothes, toiletries, blankets, pillows, bottled water, photos of Peterson's family and Disney DVDs.

"They basically didn't have a plan," he said. "They were living day to day."

The boy said they drove 1,300 miles to Riverside, Calif., outside Los Angeles, to see relatives but they couldn't find anyone because they had no phone numbers or addresses. He said they made a short trip to the beach -- he thinks Huntington Beach in Orange County -- where he swam in the cold ocean.

"She wanted to see the beach, I guess, because she had never seen it," he said.

From there, they drove through San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico, and then about 120 miles east to Mexicali, staying at hotels throughout the trip. A phone call by the pair to the boy's uncle in Yuma, Ariz., led to the capture.

The boy said he would likely return to Penjamo on Saturday after his mother sends the airfare. In the last few days, he has been taking afternoon naps and playing soccer with new friends.

He would rather live in the United States, where he shared a home with his mother, her boyfriend and two U.S.-born brothers, ages 1 and 16. He doesn't remember when he left Mexico, perhaps in second grade, first for Riverside and then for Nebraska.

"Life is harder (in Mexico)" he said. "I really don't know anything here."

A U.S. Embassy official in Mexico City said she couldn't comment on the boy's case, but added that U.S. immigration law does allow for foreigners to return to testify in criminal cases.

The boy said he would testify if asked.

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