LOS ANGELES: California police have arrested a 41-year-old man accused of kidnapping a teenager and sexually abusing her for a decade, after the alleged victim got in touch via Facebook.
The woman, now 25, was forced to marry her alleged captor, and neighbors described them leading an apparently normal life.
“He’s a good guy,” one neighbor told KTLA television when asked about Isidro Garcia, the live-in boyfriend of the girl’s mother at the time.
“I see him every day, going to work, (saying) ‘Hi, how you been?'”
NPR radio cited neighbors as identifying the young woman as having the first name Laura, and said she was able to drive a car.
The then 15-year-old victim was seized in Santa Ana, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2004 by Garcia, police said Wednesday.
She came forward herself, triggering the arrest Tuesday of her alleged kidnapper, identified as Garcia, 41.
The victim, whose identity was not immediately revealed, had opportunities to escape during the last decade, but “saw no way out of her situation,” a police statement said.
In 2007, Garcia allegedly forced her into a marriage and in 2012, they had a child together.
She finally came forward after recently contacting her sister via Facebook, and “eventually gained the courage to contact the police,” said the statement.
Garcia — who lives in Bell Gardens, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) 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 Garcia.
“Garcia drugged the victim and drove her to a house in Compton,” police 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,” the statement added.
“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.”
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.
A former neighbor told the LA Times that she had spoken to the victim’s mother, shortly before she disappeared.
“I spoke to her mom about God,” 54-year-old Silvia Suarez told the newspaper.
“She said she was having problems with her partner. She believed he was romancing her daughter.”
Araceli Ochoa, a leasing agent for the apartment complex, said he spoke to the mother after her daughter’s disappearance.
“She couldn’t understand how her daughter could leave,” he told the LA Times.
Ochoa said he was happy for the mother.
“I am very excited that they found her. But it’s still a tragedy that she has to live with every day now,” he said. “Each day with him probably felt like 100 years to her.”
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.
In that case police found ropes and chains in the house where the women — Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 — were held since disappearing in separate incidents.
Their captor, Ariel Castro, hanged himself in prison in September.