During that time, Stella and Lagos-Sanchez moved to Whitesville. Lagos-Sanchez became active in the Whitesville Baptist Church and helped out with a vacation Bible school. He joined the volunteer fire department. He became an apprentice underground miner, earning his mining card in 2011, and worked briefly at a Massey Energy Co. mine before being let go in mass layoffs.
Before things went awry, Lagos-Sanchez was doing custodial work and odd jobs at Daniel Chevrolet in Whitesville.
A hearing on his immigration status had been scheduled for Oct. 12, 2012.
Lagos-Sanchez is arrested
On Sept. 29, less than two weeks before his hearing, Lagos-Sanchez was shooting a handgun at a wooden target in his backyard in Whitesville. A neighbor heard the shots, got concerned and called the police.
The police came and wrote him a ticket, with a fine, for shooting within 500 feet of a house. He was taken down to the station but was released the same day and was allowed to keep the gun.
Three days later, though, Stella Sanchez went to pick up her husband after work at Daniel Chevrolet and he wasn't there. He had been picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
On Oct. 10, two days before his hearing, Lagos-Sanchez was indicted by a federal grand jury in Beckley and charged with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.
Those charges were dismissed on Jan. 14, 2013, after Lagos-Sanchez agreed to plead guilty to a lesser state charge -- attempting to destroy property.
Lagos-Sanchez was sentenced to probation and time already served, but the next day, ICE picked him up and took him to the prison in Pennsylvania, where he remains today.
In April, an immigration judge ruled against his application for asylum, citing his recent arrest and his gang connection in Honduras.
On Friday, Khaalid Wells, an ICE spokesman, sent the following email statement:
"Erlin Amado Lagos Sanchez (sic) was removed from the United States in February 2005 and later illegally re-entered. He was arrested by local authorities in October 2012 before being turned over to ICE custody. An immigration judge ordered him removed in April 2013. He will remain in ICE custody pending the resolution of his immigration case."
Because Lagos-Sanchez is married to an American citizen he is eligible for a visa. However, because of a law designed to thwart marriages of convenience, he would have to apply for the visa from Honduras, and he would have to live there for five to 10 years.
Because of his history there, Stella Sanchez says that is impossible.
"If he sets foot in Honduras," she said, "he'll be killed."
Olivia Ranson, Stella Sanchez's mother, collected about 300 signatures on a petition supporting Lagos-Sanchez, first to bring to his April hearing, and then to send to the Board of Immigration Appeals along with his case information. According to census data, there are only 514 people in Whitesville, including zero Hispanics.
Praise from those who know Lagos-Sanchez is fairly universal.
"I could not have handpicked a better man to take care of my daughter and my grandchildren," Olivia Ranson said. "When that derecho hit last year, he was so afraid for the life of his family that he ran, ran over three miles in the middle of it to get to them instead of waiting it out."
"He works harder than anybody I know. My boys are good workers, too, but let me tell you he is a good worker," said Peggy Webber, Stella Sanchez's maternal grandmother. "He takes wonderful care of the children. I have watched him, he would change diapers, it didn't matter to him."
Loren Daniel owns Daniel Chevrolet, where Lagos-Sanchez painted trim, mowed the grass and cleaned cars for about six months before his arrest.
"He's a good worker, honest, and he was a productive member as far as I'm concerned," Daniel said. "I told his attorney that as long as he can legally work, I would hire the guy."
Lagos-Sanchez also worked for Henrietta Long, a 67-year-old Whitesville native who lives alone and is suffering from cancer and kidney problems.
Lagos-Sanchez mowed her lawn and cleaned out her garage and did other odd jobs.
"Anything I could do to help Erling out, I would," Long said. "He has three children he wants to take care of and a beautiful wife."
After the derecho last year, Lagos-Sanchez, unsolicited, brought ice and a flashlight to Long's house.
"Out of this whole entire town and the surrounding areas, no one came to check on me but Erling," Long said. "I even seen relatives pass by -- but Erling came."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.