Apparently holding up a “help me” sign in a stopped car, a 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped and sexually raped in Texas was freed in Southern California, according to police and federal investigators.
The rescue took place on July 9 in Long Beach, which is south of Los Angeles, when officers went to a disturbance report and discovered the “visibly emotional and distressed girl,” according to a press release from the police department on Thursday.
Officers discovered via their investigation that the Good Samaritans had been in a parking lot when they noticed the victim in a parked car holding out a piece of paper with the words ‘help me’ scrawled on it.
They acknowledged the note and dialed 9-1-1 right away, according to authorities. According to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, Steven Robert Sablan, 61, of Cleburne, Texas, was detained and on Thursday was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual behavior.
The federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles housed Sablan. If he had a lawyer, it was not immediately known.
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, the girl was strolling along a street in San Antonio, Texas, on July 6, when Sablan pulled up, pointed a black revolver at her, and threatened to injure her if she didn’t get in the car with him.
The girl, according to the narrative, had departed without informing her parents because she wanted to go see a school friend who had moved to Australia a year prior but stayed in touch via an online chatroom.
After entering Sablan’s car, the girl at some point told him about her friend, and Sablan stated he could take her to an Australian cruise ship, but she would need to do something for him, according to the affidavit.
The girl told the suspect to stop, but she was afraid she would be hurt if she didn’t, the agent wrote.
The suspect then stopped the car and sexually attacked the victim. The affidavit said that throughout the girl’s journey from San Antonio via New Mexico and Arizona to California, Sablan repeatedly sexually molested her.
The girl’s mother filed a missing person’s report with San Antonio police on July 7.
The affidavit claims that the suspect encouraged the girl to change her clothing at a laundromat in Long Beach before taking her clothes and going inside, giving her the chance to scribble “help me” on some paper.
Sablan was outside the car when Long Beach police arrived, and they saw the girl utter the word “help,” the agent wrote.
Officers detained Sablan after discovering a set of silver handcuffs in his back pocket and the fact that he was wanted in Fort Worth for a burglary. A search of the car revealed a black plastic BB gun, a “help me” sign, a switchblade knife, and black handcuffs in packaging marked “Fetish Fantasy Series Designer Cuffs,” according to the report.
According to the complaint, Sablan was found guilty of burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon in 1985, possession of a prohibited substance in 2016, and robbery with a deadly weapon in 1979.
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services was given custody of the girl.