Three people have been arrested in Nepal in connection to the 2010 disappearance of University of Colorado graduate Aubrey Sacco, according to word her family received from U.S. State Department and embassy officials.
Officials told the Sacco family Friday that the suspects were brought in by Nepalese police on murder charges, but that hadn't been confirmed, said family friend and spokeswoman Aileen Barry.
She noted that news out of Nepal has been notoriously unreliable since Sacco's disappearance, so the family was waiting for further confirmation from Nepal.
"What they are telling us is it is for murder, for the murder of Aubrey," Barry said. "This is the first time for three years that anyone has used the words 'murder' or 'suspects.'"
Sacco, 23, has been missing since she failed to return from a solo hike in the Langtang area of northern Nepal in April 2010. It was the end of the trekking season, and few other backpackers were in the area.
According to the Associated Press, police official Raj Kumar Shrestha said two suspects were arrested Thursday in Rasuwa, near where Sacco went missing, and were being questioned.
Barry said the State Department confirmed that two men were arrested near where Aubrey went missing -- and another was arrested in the capital of Kathmandu.
Nepal has been under pressure to investigate the case.
"We're being realistic. The news that comes out of Kathmandu a lot of times is not correct," Barry said. "It's a waiting game, honestly. It's like when she went missing. We're just taking it all with a grain of salt and praying for everyone."
The Sacco family first heard about the arrests through the media.
"We're kind of in shock," Sacco's father, Paul Sacco, told the Daily Camera early Friday. "We have some very good people working on this case, and when they tell me this, then I'll believe it. We've learned to be very cautious about these reports."
Aubrey Sacco was on a trek in Langtang National Park in the Himalayas that was planned to take seven or eight days. An experienced traveler, she already had been in Asia for five months, first teaching yoga and then traveling.
She failed to make contact with her parents, who live in Greeley, several days after she was expected to return.
Paul Sacco found her laptop and other items in her hotel room during a trip to Nepal in May 2010. She hasn't been heard from since she had lunch at a hotel near the national park on April 22, 2010.
The Sacco family has made multiple trips to Langtang National Park to look for Aubrey. They hired a private investigator and have forged relationships with military and police personnel in Nepal to keep the case open and active.
The family combed through photographs they found on Aubrey's laptop, trying to see if anyone in the pictures had information about her or played a role in her disappearance.
Paul Sacco said despite setbacks in the three years his daughter has been missing, he and his family always were confident they would find out what happened to Aubrey sooner or later.
"We have never doubted we would get to the bottom of this, ever," Sacco said. "We have doubted if we would find her alive, but we have never doubted we would find the answers. The task was overwhelming and daunting, but for some reason we never doubted it."
Sacco said it was difficult to know how to feel about the arrests until he had a chance to talk to police.
"In a way we feel ... I don't know. Horror and sadness and vindication at the same time that our people have worked for us so hard and so well that we may actually have answers," Sacco said.
"It's both relief and horrible news because it means that perhaps she's not out there and alive somewhere."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.