Handwritten sign leads rescuers to kidnapped 13-year-old girl - 'Help Me!'


Handwritten sign leads rescuers to kidnapped 13-year-old girl - 'Help Me!'

                  Handwritten sign leads rescuers to kidnapped 13-year-old girl - 'Help Me!'

A 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped in Texas and sexually assaulted was rescued in California when witnesses spotted her holding up a sign that said "Help Me!" from inside a parked car, authorities said this week.

Police and prosecutors said 61-year-old Steven Robert Sablan of Cleburne, Texas, was arrested in Long Beach, California, and charged with kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

The girl was walking on a street in San Antonio on July 6 when Sablan approached her driving a silver Nissan Sentra, according to an affidavit in the criminal complaint against Sablan provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

Sablan allegedly raised a handgun and told the girl, "If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you," the criminal complaint said.

She obeyed out of fear for her life, the criminal complaint said. At one point, Sablan allegedly asked how old she was, and she told him she was 13-years-old. Sablan sexually assaulted the victim repeatedly despite her telling him to stop, the complaint alleged.

"Over the next two days, Sablan allegedly drove the victim from Texas to California and sexually assaulted her at least two more times," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in press release.

The morning of July 9, Sablan drove them to a laundromat in Long Beach where he went inside to wash their clothes, the complaint said. The girl wrote "Help Me!" on a piece of paper and held it up to try to get the attention of passersby.

"Good Samaritans" who saw the sign immediately called 911, the Long Beach Police Department said. Police responded shortly after 10 a.m., and when they arrived, "saw Sablan standing outside the vehicle and saw the victim – who mouthed the word 'Help' inside the car, court documents state," prosecutors said.

Inside the car was a BB gun, a knife and the sign. Sablan also had a pair of handcuffs in his pocket. Officials determined the girl had been reported as a runaway missing person from San Antonio. She was believed to have left home to try to visit a friend in Australia, and Sablan told her he could help her get there after he forced her into his car, the complaint said.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Sablan faces life in prison if convicted. Sablan was already wanted for burglary in Fort Worth, Texas, at the time of his arrest and was considered "armed and dangerous," and had multiple prior convictions, according to the criminal complaint.