Friday 20 April 2018

Kidnapped woman speaks of fear after decade of abuse

A woman who says she was abducted a decade ago by a man who forced her to marry him and fathered her child has said she is now happy and feels blessed to be back with her family.

Police described a decade during which the now 25-year-old woman - abused mentally, physically and sexually by her captor - was moved at least four times and given multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities.

The woman, who has not been identified, said she often thought about escaping but was fearful of her abductor.

"I was very afraid about everything because I was alone," she told KABC-TV.

Isidro Garcia, 41, of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping for rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment, the Santa Ana Police Department said.

His accuser - who came forward to police on Monday after finding her sister on Facebook - told the station that her neighbours believed her captor was a good man because he worked hard.

The home of suspect Isidro Garcia, the top floor, apartment
The home of suspect Isidro Garcia, the top floor, apartment "G", in Bell Gardens, California. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The home of suspect Isidro Garcia, the top floor, apartment "G", in Bell Gardens, California. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

"He worked hard for me and my daughter and he bought everything I want. But I didn't want that," she said with her mother, sister and daughter at her side. "I need love from my family, not things."

KABC-TV did not identify the woman because she is a victim of sexual abuse. The station had interviewed the woman's mother when she went missing 10 years ago.

In Bell Gardens - 20 miles from where the girl originally vanished - stunned neighbours who knew the suspect as Tomas Medrano found the woman's portrait of him hard to reconcile with the man they knew.

"He treats her like a queen. He does his best to do whatever she wants," next-door neighbour Maria Sanchez said after police announced Garcia's arrest.

Santa Ana police corporal Anthony Bertagna said his department's investigation concluded the following:

The girl arrived from Mexico in February 2004 to join her mother and sister in Santa Ana, about 30 miles south-east of central Los Angeles. She had entered the United States illegally and spoke no English.

Garcia was her mother's boyfriend. After a fight between the girl's mother and Garcia in August 2004, the girl's mother left the house and the girl went to a nearby park.

Garcia followed the girl. When he caught up with her, she said she had a headache and wanted to go home. Garcia began threatening the girl.

"He told her then, 'You can't go home. You're here illegally, you don't speak the language, your mom's called the police, they will send you back. I'm your only hope,'" Mr Bertagna said.

Garcia gave her five pills that he said would help her headache but instead knocked her out. When the girl awoke, she was locked in a garage in Compton, a city between Santa Ana and Los Angeles.

The mother "filed a police report and for 10 years (police) did due diligence. But they were changing their names and dates of birth and physical locations so that made it exceedingly difficult," Mr Bertagna said.

In 2007, Garcia got documents from Mexico that gave the girl a new name and date of birth. Using those documents, he married her at a courthouse. Police said their daughter was born in 2012.

Police said the woman tried to escape twice but was severely beaten.

The case comes just over a year after kidnapping and rape victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three women who had gone missing separately about a decade earlier while in their teens or early 20s, were rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom at 14 and held captive for nine months, said people cannot know what victims are going through and should not question why the woman did not escape sooner.

"We don't know what these evil people are holding over them - whether it's their families' lives, their lives, whatever it is," Ms Smart said.

Prosecutors later said Garcia had been charged with five felony counts, including rape and kidnapping to commit a sexual offence.

He will appear in court today.

Press Association

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