A 13-year-old girl who was kidnapped in Texas was rescued over a thousand miles away in California after a Good Samaritan saw her «Help me!» her to sign and contact the authorities.
The suspect, Steven Robert Sabalan, 61, of Cleburne, Texas, was arrested July 9 and booked into the Long Beach City Jail on charges of kidnapping, lewd and lewd acts with a child, and fugitive from justice, the Long Beach Police Department said in a statement. Press release.
On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted him on one count of kidnapping and one count of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. It is not clear if he has obtained a lawyer.
The girl, who was not identified, was abducted at gunpoint near a bus stop in San Antonio on July 6, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said.
Sabalan allegedly approached the girl in his vehicle and demanded that she get in, saying, «If you don’t get in the car with me, I’m going to hurt you,» the office said in a statement. Press release. Fearing for her safety, the girl got into the car.
Over the next two days, Sabalan allegedly drove the girl more than 19 hours from Texas to California. Authorities said he sexually assaulted her numerous times.
On July 9, Sabalan went to a Long Beach laundromat to wash his clothes, according to federal prosecutors. While she was inside the girl she wrote «Help me!» on a piece of paper and held it up. A witness saw the sign and called the police, leading to the girl’s rescue.
Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish thanked the community for helping the girl.
“This incident highlights the critical role community members play in keeping people safe,” he said in a statement. «I would also like to thank our officers for their quick response and actions that led to getting this victim to safety.»
The girl was placed in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services and has since been reunited with her family, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office said.