Kidnapped Girl Rescued After Holding Up Sign

13-year-old was spotted by a good Samaritan
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2023 7:53 AM CDT
Kidnapped Girl Rescued After Holding Up Sign
This photo released by the US Department of Justice shows a "Help Me!" sign used by a 13-year-old girl kidnapped in Texas.   (US Department of Justice via AP)

Police in Long Beach, California say a kidnapped 13-year-old was rescued after a good Samaritan spotted the girl's "Help Me!" sign and called 911. Police say they found the "visibly emotional and distressed" girl in a vehicle parked outside a laundromat, CNN reports. She had been kidnapped from a street in San Antonio, Texas three days before the July 9 rescue. Police say she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by suspect Steven Robert Sablan, 61, on the drive from Texas to California. Sablan, a resident of Cleburne, Texas, had emerged from the laundromat and was standing by the car when police arrived. He was arrested at the scene.

Sablan was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, the AP reports. In an affidavit, an FBI agent wrote that the girl was walking down a street near a bus stop on July 6 when Sablan drove up, pulled a gun, and told the girl, "If you don't get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you." Police say that when he was arrested, Sablan had handcuffs in his pocket. More handcuffs were found in the vehicle, along with a switchblade and a black handgun that was later determined to be a BB gun.

"I want to commend our community members for their vigilance and willingness to get involved by calling 911," Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish said in a statement. "This incident highlights the critical role community members play in keeping people safe." (More kidnapping stories.)

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