13-year-old girl saved from kidnapping after 'help me' sign led to rescue
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Featured Image Credit: U.S Attorney’s Office/aire images/Getty Images
Warning: This article discusses sexual assault.
A 13-year-old girl was plunged into her worst nightmare last year when she was abducted at gunpoint.
The anonymous teen was attacked and thrown into a vehicle by an unknown man in San Antonio, Texas, on 6 July last year.
It was only until days later that the brave young woman cleverly plucked up the courage and held up a 'Help Me!' sign from inside the vehicle, which by then had made its way to Southern California.
Whilst parked in Long Beach - when the kidnapper had gone into a laundromat - the girl held up the sign, hoping a passerby might notice and alert the authorities.
And thankfully, a Good Samaritan in the car park did just that.
Within minutes, Long Beach police officers arrived on the scene and arrested the perpetrator, later identified at 62-year-old Steven Robert Sablan.
Arriving onto the scene, authorities witnessed Sablan standing outside of the car, with the girl sitting inside.
According to records, the victim then mouthed the word 'help' at officers.
They later said the young woman was 'visibly emotional and distressed' when being recovered from the parked vehicle - later ruled that she'd been sexually assaulted in the car.
The authorities told press after rescuing the youngster: "Through their investigation, officers learned the Good Samaritans were in a parking lot when they saw the victim in a parked vehicle holding up a piece of paper with ‘help me’ written on it.
"They acknowledged the note and immediately called 9-1-1."
According to court documents, Sablan - also from Texas - had threatened the girl, telling her: "If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you."
Responding officers discovered a black BB gun in the vehicle, as well as the girl's 'Help Me!' sign, and a pair of handcuffs.
Sablan was then indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with both kidnapping and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Since the harrowing crime, he has remained in federal custody until this week, when the sex offender pled guilty to one count of kidnapping.
"On July 6, 2023, in San Antonio, Sablan abducted the victim, held her, and transported her in his grey Nissan Sentra to Long Beach, California," his plea agreement reads.
"During this ordeal, Sablan used a firearm to threaten and control the victim."
His sentencing has now been scheduled for 25 October this year, during which he'll serve a mandatory 20 years in federal prison.
Sablan could also face a maximum sentence of life behind bars for his crime.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111