Residents of a Santa Ana apartment building said they remember a mother’s frantic search for her daughter after the teenager vanished 10 years ago.
Police said the 15-year-old girl was kidnapped by the woman's then-boyfriend, 42-year-old Isidro Medrano Garcia, from the apartment in the 800 block of South Fairview Street (map).
Neighbor Sylvia Torrez said she recalls the family living in an upstairs unit and how the mother did all she was capable of doing when her daughter disappeared.
According to Santa Ana detectives, Garcia moved the teenager to four cities over the next decade, changing her name and even faking documents so he could force her into marriage.
“He told her then, ‘You can't go home, you're here illegally, you don't speak English. Your mother will call police, they will send you back,’” said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department.
Aricelli Ochoa, a leasing agent at the apartment building, said she remembers the mother’s desperation after learning that the girl had gone missing from the home.
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“She left her apartment with her boyfriend,” Ochoa said. “She was concerned.”
Police said the mother was in Spanish-media interviews with Univision and a newspaper in Santa Ana when the girl went missing in 2004.
Police said Garcia forced the girl to work with him as a janitor so he could keep an eye on her. In 2012, she gave birth to their child.
“My understanding is there was continued and repeated sexual assaults,” Bertagna said. “On two occasions she tried to escape, he caught her, he beat her for her efforts.”
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Garcia was arrested after his alleged victim came forward. She told police Garcia began sexually assaulting her while she lived with her mother and sisters at the apartment. In August of 2004, after Garcia assaulted her mother, Garcia drugged the victim and drove her to a house in Compton.
Garcia faces charges of kidnap for rape, committing a lewd act with a minor and false imprisonment, Bertagna said.