A 13-year-old girl was recently able to escape her kidnapper by flashing a “Help Me!” sign from a parked car, alerting passersby that she was in danger.
According to the Long Beach Police Department in California, the teenager had been abducted in Texas on July 6 after the suspect approached her in San Antonio while she was waiting for a bus. Police say the suspect pointed a gun at the girl and demanded she get in his car.
Court documents obtained by ABC News said the suspect raised a black handgun to his side and told the victim to get into his grey Nissan Sentra. He allegedly said, “If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you.”
The documents revealed that he allegedly told her he would take her on a cruise ship to visit a friend in Australia, but she had to do something for him first.
According to detectives, the suspect then sexually assaulted the girl numerous times over the coming days as he transported her across state lines, from Texas to California.
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It was on July 9, when the suspect stopped at a Long Beach laundromat to wash their clothes, that the girl was able to connect with Good Samaritans by scrawling “Help Me!” on a piece of crumpled-up paper and flashing it to people from inside the car.
They “immediately” called 911, police said.
When police responded, they came across the man standing outside the car. Inside the vehicle, they found the girl, her sign, a black BB gun “which resembled a semi-automatic pistol” and a pair of handcuffs.
The suspect has been identified as 61-year-old Steven Robert Sablan. He was transported to the Long Beach City Jail, where he was booked for kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and being a fugitive from justice. He was booked on a $100,000 bail and was released to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on July 11.
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CBS News reports that Sablan was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this week and charged with one count of kidnapping and one count of transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
If convicted of both charges, he could face life in prison.
The teen, who had been previously reported as a runaway, was placed in the custody of the San Antonio Department of Children and Family Services.
“I want to commend our community members for their vigilance and willingness to get involved by calling 911. This incident highlights the critical role community members play in keeping people safe,” Long Beach Chief of Police Wally Hebeish said in a statement. “I would also like to acknowledge our officers for their swift response and actions which led to getting this victim to safety.”
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