Santa Ana - A California man accused of abducting a 15-year-old girl and holding her captive for a decade was charged on Thursday with rape and kidnapping, as his lawyer suggested the teenager went with him willingly and was treated “like a queen”.
Police say the woman, now 25, told detectives she endured a decade of physical and sexual abuse after being abducted by her mother's live-in boyfriend, Isidro Garcia, from the family's suburban Santa Ana home in 2004.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was forced into marriage in 2007 and bore his daughter in 2012, police said. She contacted authorities this week after reaching out to her sister on Facebook.
Garcia, 41, made a brief court appearance in Orange County Superior Court on Thursday on charges of rape, lewd acts on a minor and kidnapping. He was ordered held on $1 million bail but did not enter a plea.
His attorney, Charles Frisco, told reporters outside court that his client and the woman were a couple and suggested her accusations were prompted by marital problems.
“It appears that the couple was going through a divorce and she wanted to get back at him,” Frisco said, adding his client had no criminal record.
“He treated her like a queen,” Frisco said. “He was devoted to her. She had her own job. She had her own car. He was a good, loyal, honest father as well as a husband.”
Asked about the impropriety of marrying a girl at 15 and accusations that Garcia took her against her will, Frisco said he could not speak to events of a decade ago but that Garcia was a simple man who “comes from a different culture”.
The woman's reported escape comes a year after three women famously emerged from a home in suburban Cleveland where they were held for years and abused by their captor, Ariel Castro.
Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder for forcing one of the women, whom he had impregnated, to miscarry. He was found hanged in his cell a month into a life sentence.
In California, prosecutors accuse Garcia of raping the teen at least once while living with her in Santa Ana. She told police that on the night of the kidnapping he drugged her and locked her in a garage in Compton, 30km away.
Neighbours who lived near Garcia in the community of Bell Gardens told local media they were shocked by the allegations and said the woman never appeared to be in distress.
Orange County District Attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami declined to address those comments but said the woman had been controlled by her captor despite having chances to escape.
“This is a victim who was kidnapped at 15 years old and convinced no one was looking for her,” Emami said. “Over the course of many years she was held mentally captive.” - Reuters