A Texas man pleaded guilty to kidnapping a 13-year-old girl who was rescued in California after an observant passerby saw her hold up a “Help Me!” sign in a parked car.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California, Steven Robert Sablan, 62, of Cleburne, Texas, pled guilty.
The 62-year-old admitted that he had sexually assaulted the 13-year-old girl after kidnapping her.
Sablan drove the Texas teenager to California after kidnapping her on July 6, 2023 in San Antonio.
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The young girl’s nightmare began during a walk in the Texas city.
Sablan allegedly approached the victim and raised a black handgun to his side while ordering her to get into his sedan.
“If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you,” Sablan allegedly told the teen, who complied and got into his car.
Court documents state that the now 62-year-old began driving and told the girl he could take her on a cruise ship to see her friend in Australia.
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Sablan allegedly told the teen that she, “had to do something for him first.”
The adult then allegedly sexually assaulted her and continued to rape her while driving from Texas to California.
On July 9, Sablan parked his vehicle in Long Beach, California and went into a laundromat to wash their clothes while the victim stayed in the car.
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While her attacker was preoccupied, officials say the teen victim wrote “help me” on a piece of scrap paper in an attempt to catch someone’s attention.
A witness saw the girl and called the Long Beach Police Department, who arrived to find Sablan outside the vehicle. Authorities say that the teen mouthed “help” from inside to authorities.
During a search of the vehicle, officers retrieved a black BB gun, a “Help me” sign, and a pair of handcuffs.
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Sablan was arrested and will be sentenced on October 25 for a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.