They seemed like a normal, happy family, but today details continued to emerge about a California women who had been allegedly abducted as a teenager 10 years ago and forced to marry and bear a child with her captor.
Locals in Bell Gardens, a suburb south of Los Angeles, reportedly knew the couple as “Tomas and Laura”. Some even attended their two-year-old daughter’s birthday.
The unnamed woman, who is now 25, told local news that her alleged kidnapper, 42-year-old Isidro Garcia, had “worked hard for me and my daughter and he bought everything I want, but I need love of my family – not things”.
The story of the alleged decade-long ordeal emerged when the woman approached police to make a complaint of domestic violence, shortly after making contact with her estranged sister via Facebook. Mr Garcia was arrested on Tuesday and later charged with kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment. If convicted on all counts, he could face life in prison.
Authorities said the alleged kidnapping took place several months after the girl arrived in California from Mexico, in March 2004, to join her mother and sisters in Orange County. Mr Garcia lived in the same apartment complex. At the time, he is said to have been dating the victim’s mother.
Police allege that Mr Garcia began to sexually assault the alleged victim in June 2004, when she was 15. One night in August, during a domestic dispute, she fled to a local park. Mr Garcia allegedly followed her, drugged her and drove her to Compton, in Los Angeles, where he is said to have locked her unconscious in a garage. Police said: “Over the course of the following months and years, Mr 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.”
To throw the authorities and the family off his scent, detectives now believe, Mr Garcia changed identities and moved several times. On the rare occasions when his alleged victim attempted to escape, police said she was subjected to brutal beatings. The woman said she was afraid to ask for help from their neighbours in Bell Gardens, because they all considered her husband an upstanding member of the community.
Police said the woman had been “brainwashed” by her captor, but some neighbours did not believe the allegations. Ricardo Ledesma, 43, told the Los Angeles Times Mr Garcia’s arrest was “an injustice”, saying: “I never saw him hit her or any signs of abuse.”
The woman alleged that, in 2007, he forced her to marry him, using false documents from Mexico that altered the woman’s birth date. Their daughter was born in 2012.
“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,” said police.
However, the woman managed to communicate on Facebook with her sister, who told her that her mother had gone to great lengths to try to find her, including making appeals on a Spanish language television channel.
“I was very afraid about everything,” the woman said. “I [thought] I was alone, but I never was… My family was with me.”