Search widens for blind American woman who vanished while vacationing in Peru

Authorities in Peru have reportedly expanded their search for a legally blind Michigan woman who was last heard from last week while staying at a hostel in Cusco.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Carla Valpeoz, 35, missed her returning flight home and hasn’t had her phone on for days. The social worker known for her advocacy for the visually impaired was reportedly staying the at Pariwana Hostel in Cusco at the time of her disappearance.

Officials in Peru told ABC News that they’ve issued a “red alert,” meaning police all around the country are combing towns and Incan ruins for Valpeoz. Police also said Valpeoz was last seen entering the Incan ruins at the Pisac Archaeological Park in the country’s Sacred Valley region.

The 35-year-old was expected to return with her friend on Saturday. Amanda Steele told the Free Press that they spent the six days of the trip together in Lima. Steele, who is also from Michigan, said Valpeoz planned to go to Machu Picchu alone and meet her back in Lima on December 13 but never showed up.

In a video she reportedly posted on YouTube, Valpeoz said she was diagnosed with optic nerve atrophy when she was 10 and has been gradually losing her sight ever since.

“I can’t wait to tell you all about it. It was absolutely worth 100%,” a text message Valpeoz reportedly sent to Steele on December 11 said. “I’m coming in on Thursday afternoon so I will send you the details through email once I check in. It would be a wonderful welcoming to have all of you come pick me up.”

According to ABC News, the search has expanded from Cusco, where she spent the night of December 11, to 21 miles east in Pisac, where she was seen entering the ruins the following day.

The U.S. State Department is reportedly involved with the ongoing investigation. Investigators are reportedly inspecting credit cards for any signs of activity.

“She’s known her entire life that she will eventually go blind based on her condition,” the missing woman’s brother recently told ABC.

“So it’s my belief that she wanted to see and experience as much as she could before she couldn’t see anymore. I think that is a driving force for her. She wanted to travel as much as she could whether with friends or independently.”


[Featured image: Carla Valpeoz/Handout]