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Police say Isidro Garcia, seemingly friendly neighbor, was kidnap-rapist



By GILLIAN FLACCUS and TAMI ABDOLLAH

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- A woman who says she was abducted by a man a decade ago who forced her to marry him and who fathered her child told KABC-TV that she's happy and blessed to be back with her family.

Police described a decade during which the woman - abused mentally, physically and sexually by her captor - was moved at least four times and given multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities.

The woman, who wasn't identified, said she often thought about escaping but was fearful of her abductor.

"I was very afraid about everything because I was alone," she said in the interview that aired Wednesday night.

Isidro Garcia, 41, of Bell Gardens, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping for rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment, the Santa Ana Police Department said.

His now 25-year-old accuser - who came forward to police on Monday after finding her sister on Facebook - told the station that her neighbors believed her captor was a good man because he worked hard.

"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."

KABC-TV didn't identify the woman because is a victim of sexual abuse. The station had interviewed the woman's mother when she went missing 10 years ago.

In the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens - 20 miles from where the girl 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 in Spanish on Wednesday after police announced Garcia's arrest.

Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said his department's investigation concluded the following:

The girl - whose name was withheld by police - arrived from Mexico in February 2004 to join her mother and sister in Santa Ana, about 30 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. She had entered the United States illegally and spoke no English.

Garcia was her mother's boyfriend. After one fight between the girl's mother and Garcia in August 2004, the girl's mother left the house and the girl went to a nearby park.

Garcia followed the girl. When he caught up with her, she said she had a headache and wanted to go home.

Garcia began threatening the girl.

"He told her then, `You can't go home. You're here illegally, you don't speak the language, your mom's called the police, they will send you back. I'm your only hope,'" Bertagna said.

Garcia gave her five pills that he said would help her headache but instead knocked her out. When the girl awoke, she was locked in a garage in Compton, a city between Santa Ana and Los Angeles.

The mother "filed a police report and for 10 years (police) did due diligence. But they were changing their names and dates of birth and physical locations so that made it exceedingly difficult," Bertagna said.

In 2007, Garcia got documents from Mexico that gave the girl a new name and date of birth. Using those documents, he married her at a courthouse. Police said their daughter was born in 2012.

Police said the woman tried to escape twice but was severely beaten.

The case comes just over a year after kidnapping and rape victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three women who had gone missing separately about a decade earlier while in their teens or early 20s, were rescued from a house in Cleveland.

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom at 14 and held captive for nine months, told The Associated Press that people cannot know what victims are going through and should not question why the woman didn't escape sooner.

"We don't know what these evil people are holding over them - whether it's their families' lives, their lives, whatever it is," Smart said.

Garcia lived in Bell Gardens for about four years. The family had the second-floor corner unit of a stucco apartment building in a quiet working-class neighborhood across from a park.

Neighbors said Garcia always said hello, joked with neighbors and sometimes brought them fruit. His wife worked for a nearby janitorial service and he held at least two jobs - including one making egg rolls - and also collected cardboard and recyclable items to sell.

Garcia said he wanted to save money so that his wife didn't have to work, said Lourdes Hernandez, who babysat their child for a year.

The family threw elaborate parties that included costumed characters and raffle giveaways. A video shot at their daughter's birthday party last year shows the mother with the girl in her arms, line-dancing behind her husband as he wiggles his hips.

Hernandez said the woman took Zumba classes in South Los Angeles and sometimes invited her along.

She said she found the woman's story hard to believe.

"He worked hard for her," she said.

Maria Sanchez said the woman had her own car.

"Sometimes she just leaves with her daughter in the car, she never looked scared," she said.

Neighbors said the family took trips together to Disneyland and the beach, and even up north to visit Garcia's family.

"I'm astounded she waited so long to say something," said Rita Salazar.

Police said Garcia repeatedly told the victim her family had given up looking for her.

Only recently, she contacted her sister on Facebook on the woman's birthday and they started to communicate, police said. She also learned that her mother had indeed tried to find her, going to a Spanish-language television station and newspaper in 2004.

Small gifts of kindness from a captor, a bit of food, a trip to the bathroom, can create positive feelings within the victim, said Dr. Frank Ochberg, an expert on the psychology of captives.

"Someone takes away the fear, the isolation, and we have positive feelings," he said. "That could be the beginning of a trauma bond."

---

Associated Press writers Michael R. Blood and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles, and Michelle Price in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
jijjhnsn May 22 2014 at 6:24 PM

She has her own car, and drives away by her self. Hmm, something wrong here, unlike the Cleveland 3 who were never let out on the street.

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3 replies
pdane2 May 22 2014 at 6:26 PM

He treated her like a queen but then beat her when she trys to escape.The mother never suspects her old boyfriend took her little girl? it seems when he disappeard and the daughter did too I would of been on the hunt in that direction. Does she speak english now? She drives a car she has a license she has been finger printed? I know she is illegal but at some point she had to give up something of her self. At the hospital? at the DMV? If he was able to hide her all these years. Think of all the terrorist in this country THE FBI needs to get to Bell Gardens looks like they have a great fake I.D. System.

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1 reply
whdlsn pdane2 May 22 2014 at 9:09 PM

You've miss-spelled the name of the town, it's Bell Garbage

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Joseph Tseng May 22 2014 at 6:24 PM

Something does not feel right... Perhaps he did kidnap her but it sounds like she has had contact with many people, a car to come and go, a job, neighbors whom she had contact with, a babysitter, vacations to Disney, and freedom to come and go. This is California where Spanish is very prevalent so you can't say that she could not communicate.
Something is not right. Maybe they need money and this would make a good movie or book. . No contact, chains, locks, or shackles, Go figure???

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2 replies
Michele Joseph Tseng May 22 2014 at 7:14 PM

I agree with you somethings not right

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
fluffyaba Michele May 22 2014 at 7:49 PM

Looks obvious that they both planned the whole thing.. Just deport the whole family.

Flag +9 rate up
Gayle Joseph Tseng May 22 2014 at 10:38 PM

I've been saying it since the story broke and I am glad I am not the only one who thinks there is something wrong with the story. They were hiding in plain sight and friends and neighbors have nothing but good things to say about them. It is just strange. Was the mother was allowed to stay in this country because her daughter was missing. Too many questions.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
winmakr May 22 2014 at 6:07 PM

This is a common story among illegals. The guy was the mother's lover... but he found the daughter more attractive.. so why not have her instead? Morals are only what they choose to make of them!
The people now entering the US illegally are the scum of society in mexico, and mexicans are damn glad they are the US' problem now and not theirs anymore. This troglodyte is only an exemplar of the rapists, petty thieves, burglars, con artists, etc. now being legalized by the incompetent a**hole in the WH.

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1 reply
cerdapaulino winmakr May 22 2014 at 11:53 PM

how about you???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Richard May 22 2014 at 7:22 PM

This is one big lie.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
dtrevdav1 May 22 2014 at 5:22 PM

That guys ears look like they are about 2-3 inches below where they should be and they look like wing flaps too. Mexican inbreeding no doubt. I'm sure they slow him down when he runs.

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1 reply
jelun dtrevdav1 May 22 2014 at 7:28 PM

He isn't Mexican, YSF.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
wayne8734 jelun May 22 2014 at 8:37 PM

jelum,he is definitely Hispanic but they don't tell us if he's from Mex. or not.

Flag +4 rate up
Mary Ann May 22 2014 at 7:20 PM

People update on this she lied

Flag Reply +5 rate up
undrcuvrdude May 22 2014 at 9:45 PM

Lets see how far that tough look will get him in prison

Flag Reply +3 rate up
ourtravelagent May 22 2014 at 2:03 PM

I guess he misunderstood what is meant by "Land of Opportunity"

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Keith May 22 2014 at 5:51 PM

It's very hard to understand why women like this don't escape ASAP when they probably had numerous chances, but when the captor buys them gifts and treats them like a queen maybe they feel this is the best life for them???..... I don't know.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Gayle Keith May 22 2014 at 10:46 PM

She said he got her all kinds of things but she needed her family's love not things. That is why I think she went with him and was not abducted...things he gave her enticed her. I hope the police can get to the truth. I am usually very sad and supportive when I read stories of women being abuducted or abused but this one doesn't ring true.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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