A Texas man pleaded guilty Friday in the kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl abducted at gunpoint from a San Antonio street to Southern California, federal prosecutors said. The teen aided in her own rescue after she was left in a car, scribbled a note with the words “help me,” and flashed the sign toward a “good Samaritan” who dialed 911.
Steven Sablan, 62, agreed to a deal in which he pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and admitted to sexually assaulting the girl multiple times before police arrested him in July in Long Beach, where he had taken the victim, according to the the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
A criminal complaint filed against Sablan laid out the victim’s harrowing ordeal and how she took a risk to get the attention of passersby to contact police.
Sablan, of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had no legal custody or familial relationship to the teenage girl, authorities said.
He saw her walking down the street near a bus stop, raised a handgun and ordered her in the front passenger seat of his silver Nissan Sentra, an FBI agent investigating the case said in an affidavit.
“If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you,” Sablan told the girl, according to investigators.
The girl told Sablan her age and said she had a friend in Australia. Sablan then offered to take her to a cruise ship. After an hour of driving, Sablan stopped, directed the girl to the back seat of the car and sexually assaulted her repeatedly as she told him to stop multiple times, according to the complaint.
Over two days, he continued the more than 1,300-mile drive from Texas to California, stopping again to sexually assault her, the complaint said.
On July 9, Sablan parked at a laundromat in Long Beach to wash clothes. The girl was left in the car and scribbled the note with the words “Help me!” flashing the sign in the window, according to the complaint. Prosecutors said a “good Samaritan” dialed 911, alerting Long Beach police to the location.
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother had also reported her missing. She confirmed to investigators that her daughter had a friend named Mickey who had moved to Australia, and that her daughter left home without telling her of her plans.
Upon Sablan’s arrest in California, police said they recovered a plastic BB handgun, handcuffs and a knife.
Authorities determined Sablan had an outstanding warrant for his arrest related to a burglary charge in Fort Worth, and he had twice been convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance.
Sablan, who is being held in a federal detention center in Los Angeles, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to life in prison when he’s sentenced at a later date, prosecutors said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com
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