A 42-year-old man was charged Thursday with kidnapping his former live-in girlfriend’s teenage daughter in Santa Ana and sexually assaulting her over 10 years.
Isidro Medrano Garcia of Bell Gardens was charged with a count of forcible rape, three counts of lewd acts on a minor and a count of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense, all felonies.
Garcia, who also went by the name of Thomas Rodriguez Medrano, was arrested Tuesday, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. He had been scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, but the hearing was postponed until June 9.
Garcia, who allegedly forced his captive into marriage in 2007 and had a child with her in 2012, was being on $1 million bail. An immigration hold also was placed on him.
Garcia’s attorney, Charles Frisco Jr., told reporters outside court Thursday that the alleged victim was lying and had multiple chances over the past decade to go to authorities.
He also suggested that she may be motivated to lie because the couple was in the process of splitting up and there may be child custody issues or she may be seeking a visa for crime victims.
The girl, then 15, was reported missing in August 2004 by her mother, who suspected Garcia, her one-time live-in boyfriend, of abducting her daughter, Bertagna said.
The mother also suspected at that time that Garcia had been sexually abusing the teen for about two months, according to investigators.
Garcia met the girl in February 2004 and would buy her gifts and take her side when the teen quarreled with her mother, according to Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Garcia is accused of molesting and kissing the girl between June and August of 2004, according to prosecutors. He sexually assaulted the girl three different times and raped her once, prosecutors allege.
The girl was born in Mexico and came to the United States to be reunited with her mother and sister, who lived with Garcia at 811 S. Fairview St., Bertagna said.
“He decides he has a liking for her, so when mom’s at work, he starts sexually assaulting her,” Bertagna alleged.
In August of that year, Garcia allegedly struck his girlfriend, prompting the mother and the 15-year-old daughter to flee the apartment, Bertagna said.
The girl went to Jerome Park in Santa Ana, and the suspect followed her, he said.
“She keeps saying she has a headache and wants to go home, and he tells her, ‘You can’t. Your mom’s called police and they’ll deport you,’” Bertagna said.
Garcia allegedly gave the girl five pills, “and the next thing she knows she wakes up in a garage in Compton,” Bertagna said.
The alleged victim contacted her sister through Facebook on her birthday in April, marking the first time her family had heard from her in years, Bertagna said.
A domestic dispute involving her and Garcia in Bell Gardens led to the suspect’s arrest Tuesday, Bertagna said.
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 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.”
“She laid her whole story out, so they did some fact-checking and confirmed she was missing,” Bertagna said. “She said she had been held against her will.”
Bell Gardens police contacted Santa Ana investigators, Bertagna said.
After Garcia allegedly attacked the teen’s mother in 2004, he took the girl to a home in Compton, where he gave her a false identity and locked her overnight in a garage, Bertagna alleged.
Garcia allegedly told her 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.
He also told her that if she told authorities she would get in trouble for using a fake identity, according to prosecutors.
“He went to great lengths so she couldn’t be identified,” Emami said.
The two moved around to avoid police, and Garcia made sure the two got jobs at a janitorial service so he could keep a close eye on her, Bertagna said.
The alleged victim told ABC7 she did not believe she had any means of escape.
“I was 15. I couldn’t do anything,” she told the station.
“… I’m so happy and God-blessed to be with my family. That’s what I want all the time,” she said in broken English. “All the time, I cry for them, more for my mom and my sisters.”
Frisco said the couple had been friends with a Los Angeles police officer for several years and that the alleged victim never reported any abuse to the officer.
The couple appeared to be happily married until recently, Frisco said.
“They were described as a very happy couple,” he said. “I was told by numerous people that she was treated like a queen.”
The defendant was stunned when he heard the allegations, Frisco said, adding he has not had a chance to go over the case in detail with his client because, “My Spanish is limited.”
He described his client as a “stellar husband, a stellar father,” who “never prevented her from leaving.”
The alleged victim had her own car and her husband was “devoted” to his wife, Frisco said.