A woman who was 15 when she disappeared 10 years ago from her California home has contacted police, telling them she was held against her will for years.
Her alleged captor, 41-year-old Bell Gardens man Isidro Garcia, has been booked on suspicion of kidnapping for rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment, according to the Santa Ana Police Department. Garcia forced the victim into a marriage in 2007 and she had his child in 2012, according to police.
Police say Garcia lived with the family in August 2004 when the girl was 15.
Police say that after assaulting her mother, Garcia drugged the girl and drove her to a house in Compton where he locked her in a garage overnight to prevent her from fleeing.
Held captive for 10 years
In the months that followed, police say he provided the girl with falsified identification and used physical and emotional abuse to prevent her from fleeing, including telling her that her family had given up looking for her and that if she tried to go back to them, they would be deported.
The victim says that Garcia began sexually assaulting her in June 2004, according to police. The mother had suspected Garcia of sexually abusing her daughter but had no evidence, according to police.
Where the victim was living when she was allegedly kidnapped (via Google Street View):
Garcia and the victim moved several times to avoid detection, according to police, with Garcia frequently physically and sexually abusing her. Garcia secured employment for both of them at a nighttime cleaning service where he could keep a close eye on her, according to police.
"Even with the opportunity to escape, after years of physical and mental abuse, the victim saw no way out of her situation and lived a life with Garcia under sustained physical and mental abuse," police said in a news release.
Now 25, the woman found the courage to come forward to police Tuesday after contacting her sister on Facebook.
A seemingly normal couple
The Bell Gardens neighborhood where Garcia and his alleged captive lived is about a mile from Bell Gardens City Hall. It's nearly all Latino. American-born kids zoom around on Razor scooters. The building itself is gated and most residents shooed away a KPCC reporter.
Maria Sanchez lives in a house next door to Garcia and said she was friendly with the family. She said she saw no signs that the woman, who she knew as Laura, was being held against her will.
"They're a good couple, they've always looked happy," Sanchez said. "Her baby shower was beautiful, a very happy party, with female friends, guests, lots of guests."
In many ways, she said, their lives seemed normal. They had birthday parties. Relatives visited from Mexico. When they went to Fresno on a trip, they brought her fresh fruit.
"The man is very humble and hard working, he's always walking to and fro in his rubber boots, he helps a lot with their daughter, he goes to pick her up," Sanchez said, saying that's why she found what happened so surprising.
She said Laura was not restrained in any way. She drove to work in her own car each day and dropped her daughter at daycare on the way. Garcia walked to work.
Garcia and the woman, who police have declined to name, moved to the two-story stucco apartment building four years ago, Sanchez said, and Garcia and her husband became friends soon after. Sanchez and her husband attended a party for Garcia's 3-year-old daughter last October. It was held in the back of the apartment complex.
The case has been submitted to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and is under review, according to the office. They said they will issue a press release when they file charges. A spokesperson said that court is likely for Garcia on Thursday, while charges could be filed Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.
This story has been updated.