See Update No. 2 on page 2 with Isidro Medrano Garcia's lawyer saying his client is a loving husband and father "shocked" by his wife's allegations. Update No. 1 on the next page details the charges against Garcia.
ORIGINAL POST, MAY 22, 6:01 A.M.: A woman who at 15 was abducted in 2004 is back with her family and her mother's former boyfriend is in custody for allegedly kidnapping the girl, repeatedly assaulting her physically and sexually and fathering her child, Santa Ana Police announced Wednesday.
The victim recently contacted her sister through Facebook and came forward to police to finger Isidro Medrano Garcia, 41, of Bell Gardens.
He was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of kidnap for rape, committing a lewd act with a minor and false imprisonment, according to Santa Ana police, who claim Garcia forced the girl into marriage in 2007, fathered her child in 2012 and threatened her with beatings and deportation to keep her quiet over the past decade.
The woman had come from Mexico as a teen six months before the abduction, when she was reunited with her mother and sister, who lived with Garcia in an apartment in the 800 block of South Fairview Street in Santa Ana.
Garcia allegedly began assaulting her in June 2004. "He decides he has a liking for her, so when mom's at work, he starts sexually assaulting her," Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the Santa Ana Police spokesman, told City News Service.
An earlier account from Bertagna's office alleged that after Garcia roughed up the girl's mother in August 2004, the teen fled the apartment for Jerome Park in Santa Ana. Garcia allegedly followed her there, and when she said she wanted to return home because she had a headache, the man is said to have told her she could not because her mother would call the cops and have her deported.
Garcia allegedly gave the girl five pills, and when she woke up she found herself in a garage in Compton, according to the police account, which adds her identity was later changed.
The victim's mother suspected Garcia had sexually assaulted and abducted her daughter, but she could not prove it, admit police, who claim the man allegedly told the teenager over the years that her family had given up trying to find her and that if she tried for a reunion, they would be deported.
Over the past decade, the two moved around frequently to avoid police and got jobs at a janitorial service so he could watch her, according to police, whose statement alleges the teen "saw no way out of her situation."
Shortly after having contacted her sister through social media, the now-woman had a domestic dispute in Bell Gardens that led to Garcia's arrest Tuesday. "She laid her whole story out, so they did some fact-checking and confirmed she was missing," Bertagna said of the Bell Gardens investigation. "She said she had been held against her will."
Bell Gardens police contacted Santa Ana investigators, who have forwarded the case to the Orange County District Attorney's office, whose Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky said she expects to file charges against Garcia today. In the meantime, he's being held on $1 million bail.
UPDATE NO. 1, MAY 22, 9:55 A.M.: Isidro Medrano Garcia, whose age is now listed as 42 by the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), is scheduled to be arraigned today in Santa Ana on one felony count of forcible rape, three felony counts of lewd acts on a minor, and one felony count of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense.
If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 19 years to life in state prison, according to the OCDA, which will ask for $1 million bail today.
Prosecutors also clarified/filled in holes when it comes to what has been released to the public about the case against Garcia:
In June 2004, Garcia is accused of grooming 15-year-old Jane Doe by buying her gifts and taking her side when the victim and her mother argued.
Between June and August of 2004, the defendant is accused of touching Jane Doe's buttocks and kissing her on the mouth. He is accused of sexually assaulting Jane Doe on three separate occasions and forcibly raping the victim at least once in the residence where they all lived together.
In August 2004, a mutual domestic violence incident between Jane Doe's mother and Garcia was reported to the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), but a case could not be proven at that time. Shortly thereafter, Garcia is accused of kidnapping Jane Doe. He is accused of taking her to a house in Compton and holding her against her will. The next day, he is accused of giving Jane Doe paperwork with a false identity.
Between August 2004 and April 2014, Garcia is accused of controlling Jane Doe by telling her that her family did not want her and was not looking for her. He is accused of threatening the victim that if she called the police to report him, she would get in trouble for using a false identity. Over the years, he is accused of keeping a close eye on her, securing a job for Jane Doe where he worked, and not letting her out of his sight.
Before the charges were announced, City News Service reported on what Bell Gardens Police officials are saying about the case:
A Bell Gardens Police Department spokesman, Lt. Scott Fairfield, said the victim walked into his department's lobby at about 4 p.m. Monday "to report a domestic violence.
"She told us she was a kidnap victim 10 years ago from Santa Ana and she had been held against her will," Fairfield told City News Service. "Based on what she told us, we contacted Santa Ana and they had a report that coincided with some of the information of a crime that had possibly occurred in our city."
Fairfield said that detectives went to Garcia's place of employment in Commerce, where both the victim and suspect worked as part of a cleaning crew.
"We watched his vehicle and took him into custody on suspicion of domestic violence around 9:30 that same night. Based on the severity of the incident, we did our due diligence to make sure we got him into custody."
Fairfield said the victim had "a mark on her … but it sounded like it was a regular thing."
Santa Ana Police say until Garcia's arrest in Bell Gardens, the alleged victim did not know her mother and sister were actively looking for her. But her being a kidnap victim is being questioned by some neighbors at the Ball Gardens apartment complex where she lived with Garcia. They told KTLA/Channel 5 the Garcias appeared to be a happily married couple raising their 3-year-old daughter, Guadalupe.
"He's a good guy," a neighbor said of Garcia to the TV news reporters. "I see him every day, going to work. 'Hi, how you been?'"
But at least one neighbor found Garcia controlling when it came to his wife.
"He wouldn't really let her go outside," Maribel Garcia told the station of Garcia and the woman she knew as Laura Ortiz. "She was out for like five minutes or so and he would pull her back in."
UPDATE NO. 2, MAY 22, 2:33 P.M.: The lawyer for Isidro Medrano Garcia, whose $1 million bail was maintained today as his arraignment was continued to June 9, said outside the courthouse his client is a loving husband and father who is "shocked" by his wife's allegations against him.
Charles Frisco Jr. told reporters who included City News Service's Paul Anderson that Garcia's accuser is lying and had multiple chances over the past decade to flee if she was truly the victim of abduction.
"I was told by numerous people that she was treated like a queen," said Frisco, who called his client "devoted" and a "stellar husband, a stellar father" who "never prevented [his wife] from leaving," noting the woman had her own car.
Frisco also claimed the couple had been friends with a Los Angeles police officer for several years but the woman never reported any abuse to the cop.
The couple appeared to be happily married until recently, said Frisco, who suggested the woman may be motivated to lie because they were in the processing of splitting up and there may be child custody issues.
Frisco also theorized the woman may be seeking a visa for crime victims. She and Garcia, who is also being held on an immigration hold, are in the country illegally. Garcia also went by Thomas Rodriguez Medrano,
The alleged victim gave a brief interview to KABC/Channel 7 news reporters during which she said she did not believe she had any means of escape.
"I was 15. I couldn't do anything,'' she said in broken English. "… I'm so happy and God-blessed to be with my family. That's what I want all the time. All the time, I cry for them, more for my mom and my sisters."
Among those supporting the woman is Elizabeth Smart, who was taken from her Utah home at knifepoint at age 14 and held in confinement for nine months.
"It's so easy for us to be curious and think, 'Why didn't you escape? Why didn't you run away?' but it's really important that we don't ask that question because all the survivor hears is, 'You should have done something,' and 'It's your fault you were gone so long,' and that's what they do not need to be hearing right now," Smart said on NBC's Today show this morning.
Smart also had advice for the young woman.
"If you don't feel like sharing your story yet, you don't need to. We will still be here if, and when, you decide to share your story. Take all the time you need to find healing, to find happiness, to find that new normal in your life, to move forward. Take all the time you need."