A 13-year-old girl from Texas, who had been kidnapped, was rescued in California thanks to observant bystanders who noticed her holding up a sign inside a car that read “help me,” the Long Beach Police Department said in a news release.
The kidnapping had taken place in San Antonio, Texas, where the girl was forced into the vehicle at gunpoint on July 6.
Three days later, on July 9, authorities in Long Beach received a 911 call and responded promptly. When they arrived at the scene, they found the distressed teenager. It was revealed that some Good Samaritans in a parking lot had spotted her in the parked vehicle, holding a piece of paper with the urgent message “help me.” These individuals wasted no time in alerting the authorities by calling 911.
The suspect responsible for the kidnapping was identified as 61-year-old Steven Robert Sablan, who was found in a nearby laundromat washing clothes at the time of the rescue. The firearm used in the kidnapping was a black BB gun resembling a semi-automatic pistol, and a pair of handcuffs was also found in the car.
Sablan was arrested and transported to Long Beach City Jail, where he faced charges of kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and being a fugitive from justice. After being booked on a $100,000 bail, he was released into the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on July 11.
Following the incident, a federal grand jury indicted Sablan on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. His arraignment is scheduled for July 31 in the US District Court in downtown Los Angeles. If convicted, Sablan could face life imprisonment.
During the ordeal, Sablan allegedly manipulated the victim, asking about her age and mentioning the possibility of taking her to visit a friend overseas on a cruise ship. However, she was subjected to repeated sexual assaults over the course of three days while in his custody.
The bystanders’ quick thinking and the efficient response of law enforcement were praised by the Long Beach chief of police, Wally Hebeish.
The teenager is now in the care of the San Antonio Department of Children and Family Services.