Mother convinced woman who vanished a decade ago to go to police
Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. — A woman who disappeared a decade ago as a 15-year-old reunited recently with her mother, who convinced her to go to authorities to report that she had been kidnapped and raped by a man who is now her husband and father of her daughter.
Orange County prosecutors on Thursday filed five felony charges against the alleged abductor, Isidro Garcia, including rape and kidnapping to commit a sexual offense. He did not enter a plea, and his arraignment was continued until June 9. He is being held on $1 million bail.
Garcia's attorney said her claims of physical and sexual abuse are lies made up because the couple is breaking up.
Police described an ordeal during which the now 25-year-old woman — broken through mental, physical and sexual abuse — was moved at least four times and given multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities.
The woman, who police did not identify by name, said she often thought about escaping but stayed out of fear, even though in recent years she was not physically held captive. She told police that Garcia said her mother was not looking for her and that if she contacted authorities, her family would be deported.
Then, in April, the woman got in touch with her mother after finding her sister on Facebook to wish her a happy birthday, Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
The mother showed the daughter news articles written at the time of her 2004 disappearance to prove that she had gone to the police and filed a missing-persons report, according to Bertagna.
"The mother was able to show her that she was, in fact, looking for her," Bertagna said.
The woman said in a television interview that she was overjoyed to be reunited with her family.
"I was very afraid about everything because I was alone," she told KABC-TV.
Garcia's attorney, Charles Frisco, said outside a brief court hearing that his client denies all the allegations, never hit his wife, and would never have prevented her from leaving.
"Like all married people and like all couples, people have problems, people break up and sometimes get very belligerent during the divorce process, the separation process, and say things that aren't true," Frisco said.
Police said that the woman, who they did not identify, had arrived in the U.S. from Mexico several months before her abduction and did not speak English at the time.
On Monday, she contacted police in the working-class city of Bell Gardens to report a domestic violence incident with Garcia. During that investigation, authorities realized her connection to the 2004 case.
Garcia forced the woman to marry in 2007 and fathered a daughter, now 3, with her, Santa Ana police said.
In Bell Gardens — near Los Angeles and about 20 miles from where she originally vanished — stunned neighbors 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 neighbor Maria Sanchez said Wednesday in Spanish after police announced Garcia's arrest.
The woman told the station that her neighbors believed Garcia was a good man because he provided for her.
"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."
When reached by phone by The Associated Press, the woman's mother said she had no comment because police told her not to speak with media.
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