Thursday, May 22
A woman who vanished as a teenager near Los Angeles has reappeared a decade later. She told police her mother's ex-boyfriend drugged and kidnapped her in 2004, then controlled her through physical and mental abuse, forcing her to marry him and fathering their daughter.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Police say 41-year-old suspect Isidro Garcia was dating the mother of the victim and living with the family in Santa Ana, the urban center of Orange County. When the mother became suspicious that Garcia was sexually abusing her daughter, authorities say Garcia assaulted the mother, drugged the teen and fled with her to a house in Compton, about 25 miles away.
HOW DID THEY REMAIN CONCEALED FOR A DECADE?
Police say Garcia made elaborate efforts to conceal her name and age. He provided the teenager, who had entered the country illegally from Mexico, with false identification and prevented her from fleeing both through physical abuse and by telling her that members of her family would be deported if she tried to contact them. The teen initially was confined in a garage, and the couple moved at least four times to avoid detection. In 2007 Garcia obtained false identification papers for her so they could marry.
DID THEIR LATEST NEIGHBORS NOTICE ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS?
Apparently not, and some were shocked by the news. They knew the suspect as Tomas Medrano and called him a devoted family man who doted on his wife and toddler daughter. The couple attended church and were known for elaborate parties. Next-door neighbor Maria Sanchez said in Spanish that "he treats her like a queen."
DID SHE TRY TO ESCAPE?
Yes, police say, at least twice, but she was severely beaten.
WHY DIDN'T SHE USE OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO FLEE?
According to authorities, the victim was a recent immigrant when she was taken, didn't speak English and saw no way out of her situation. Medical experts say captor-victim relationships can involve a "trauma bond" — situations where people ought to leave but do not. Victims become "infantilized, dominated. They end up being attached to the person who dominates them, much like a child," says psychiatrist Frank Ochberg.