WASHINGTON - Jayne Rager, whose seven-month ordeal negotiating with Mexican thugs for the freedom of her kidnapped husband attracted national attention, died May 3 at her home in Potomac, Md. She was 45.
She had complications from breast cancer, said her mother, Jane Rager.
In the years since her husband’s release in January 2008, Ms. Rager became a prominent advocate for the families and victims of perhaps Mexico’s most dangerous - and lucrative - racket: kidnapping for ransom.
She appeared on NBC’s “Today’’ show and the “Dateline’’ news program. Her book, “We Have Your Husband,’’ written with Mark Ebner, was published in 2011 and was turned into a Lifetime television movie starring Teri Polo and Esai Morales as Ms. Rager and her husband.
Ms. Rager grew up in the Washington area and spent her early career as an actress in New York and Los Angeles, appearing in commercials and soap operas. She met her future husband, Eduardo Garcia Valseca, in 1992 in the parking lot of the old Sutton Place Gourmet in Bethesda, Md. He was 18 years her senior, an art dealer, and the son of a Mexican newspaper magnate.
After their marriage in 1994, the couple lived on a 1,000-acre desert ranch near San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, where he rode horses and she tended a cactus garden. They raised three children and helped establish a Waldorf school, a progressive school that emphasizes art and nature in its curriculum, in San Miguel.
On the morning of June 13, 2007, Ms. Rager and her husband had dropped their children at school and were returning home when they were ambushed on a dusty road.
A vehicle in front of them slammed on its brakes. A truck crashed into the back of their Jeep, pinning them. Masked bandits armed with pistols and hammers smashed the windows of their car and dragged them to the ground.
Ms. Rager struggled under the grasp of her assailant, but he placed the barrel of his handgun between her eyes. The hoodlums shrouded her head in a sack and wrapped duct tape around her wrists and ankles. She and her husband were thrown into the back of the SUV. She was later abandoned by the roadside, but he was taken away.
On the ground was a note addressed to “Sra. Jayne’’ with instructions on how to communicate with the abductors by e-mail. “Chills raced through my body,’’ Ms. Rager told Marie Claire magazine in 2009. “No one ever spelled my name correctly, with the ‘y.’ These men had done their homework on us.’’
During the seven months that followed, Garcia Valseca was confined to a small box, beaten regularly, and fed meagerly. He was shot in the left leg and left arm, and three of his ribs were broken.
Ms. Rager worked with Mexican authorities and kidnapping consultants to rescue her husband. The abductors wanted $8 million. They had assumed Garcia Valseca had inherited his father’s substantial fortune. Ms. Rager told reporters she and her husband were comfortable but not wealthy.
As the months passed, the abductors sent her bloodstained notes from her husband in which he begged her to help him. He wrote that he felt she had given up on him.
“All the trust and all the love started turning into the opposite,’’ Garcia Valseca told The Washington Post in 2009. “It’s like they were pulling out of my heart all the love of my life.’’
‘Chills raced through my body. No one ever spelled my name correctly, with the “y.’’ These men had done their homework on us.’
Ms. Rager and the kidnappers finally agreed on a ransom. She sent them a duffel bag loaded with $100 bills. The couple never disclosed the amount, but it was less than $1 million.
On Jan. 24, 2008, Garcia Valseca was freed. He showed up at their home weighing 90 pounds. The couple moved to the Washington area and started new lives in the Maryland suburbs. The perpetrators were never arrested.
Jayne Marie Rager was born in Washington. She attended the University of Maryland before pursuing acting in New York and Los Angeles.
Besides her mother, of Leesburg, Va., survivors include her husband and three children, Fernando, Emiliano, and Nayah, all of Potomac; two stepchildren, Eduardo Garcia Valseca Stromblad of Los Angeles and Aurora Valseca of Vera Cruz, Mexico; and a brother, John Rager of Leesburg.