LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A woman who was allegedly kidnapped a decade ago at age 15, sexually abused and held against her will has been found alive in California, and her suspected captor arrested, police said on Wednesday.
The woman, now 25, was kidnapped in Santa Ana, south-east of Los Angeles, in 2004. She came forward herself, triggering the arrest on Tuesday of her alleged kidnapper, identified as 41-year-old Isidro Garcia.
The victim, whose identity was not immediately revealed, had opportunities to escape during the last decade, but “saw no way out of her situation,” Santa Ana police said in a statement.
In 2007, Garcia allegedly forced her into a marriage and in 2012, they had a child, it said.
Garcia – who lives in Bell Gardens, about 40km from Santa Ana in the Los Angeles suburbs – was booked for kidnapping and rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment.
The teenager went missing in August 2004 with the live-in boyfriend of her mother. “Garcia drugged the victim and drove her to a house in Compton,” it said, referring to a rough south LA neighborhood.
Once there, he had false identity documents made for her and “locked her overnight in a garage to prevent the victim from fleeing.
“Over the course of the following months and years, Garcia repeatedly told the victim her family had given up looking for her, and if she tried to go back to them, the family would be deported,” it said.
They moved several times to avoid police detection.
“Garcia frequently physically and sexually assaulted the victim,” police said, adding that he arranged for the pair to work nights for a cleaning service, “so he could keep a close eye on the victim.”
“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,” it added.
The case recalls that of three young women held captive for a decade in Cleveland, Ohio, and freed last year after one of them broke free. Their captor, Ariel Castro, hanged himself in prison last September.