When he stopped to do laundry in Long Beach over 1,300 miles from San Antonio the child found her opportunity to get help, say prosecutors, who accuse the man of repeatedly sexually assaulting the girl
An alleged kidnapper, who stands accused of taking a 13-year-old girl at gunpoint from Texas to California and sexually assaulting her along the way, has been indicted on federal charges.
The young teen is said by federal prosecutors to have waved a “help me” note in Long Beach, a city in Los Angeles County, to a passerby leading to her rescue.
The suspect — 61-year-old Steven Robert Sablan of Cleburne, Texas — was charged with one count each of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His arraignment is scheduled for July 31 in downtown Los Angeles, per Fox 11.
Prosecutors say the girl was forced into a gray Nissan Sentra at gunpoint in San Antonio on July 6. Sablan is said to have then driven away, asking the girl her age, which she reportedly stated was 13.
Federal investigators say Sablan told the child he could take her on a cruise ship to see a friend of hers in Australia “but she had to do something for him first.” On the drive to California, prosecutors say, Sablan repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl.
“I want to commend our community members for their vigilance and willingness to get involved by calling 9-1-1,” stated Long Beach police Chief Wally Hebeish. “This incident highlights the critical role community members play in keeping people safe. I would also like to acknowledge our officers for their swift response and actions which led to getting this victim to safety.”
Prosecutors say when police searched Sablan’s vehicle they found a black BB gun, handcuffs, and the “help me” note.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the missing child had initially been reported as a runaway in San Antonio.
If convicted Sablan could face life in federal prison.
Are you or someone you know a recent survivor of sexual assault? Help is available. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides a 24/7 national sexual assault hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-656-4673.