A WOMAN who says she was abducted in California a decade ago by a man who forced her to marry him and who fathered her child has been reunited 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 was not identified, said she often thought about escaping but was fearful of her abductor.
“I was very afraid about everything because I was alone,” she said in a television interview.
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.
“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.”
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.
Anthony Bertagna of Santa Ana police said that the woman arrived from Mexico in February 2004 to join her mother and sister in Santa Ana, about 30 miles from central Los Angeles. She had entered the United States illegally and spoke no English.
Garcia was her mother’s boyfriend. After one 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, and he began threatening her.
“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’,” police said.
Garcia gave her five pills that he said would help her headache but instead they knocked her out. When the girl awoke, she was locked in a garage in Compton, a city between Santa Ana and Los Angeles.
In 2007, Garcia obtained 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 the couple’s daughter was born in 2012. They 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 that people cannot know what victims are going through and should not question why the woman did not escape sooner.
Garcia lived in Bell Gardens for about four years. The family occupied the second-floor corner unit of a stucco apartment building in a quiet working-class neighbourhood across from a park.
Neighbours said Garcia always said hello, joked and sometimes brought them fruit. His wife worked for a nearby janitorial service and he held at least two jobs – including one making egg rolls.