A man pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he kidnapped a 15-year-old girl and held her for a decade, forcing her to have sex with him, marry him and give birth to his child.
Prosecutors say Isidro Garcia, 41, who had been dating the girl’s mother, drugged and abducted the girl, telling her that her family wasn’t looking for her and that if she contacted authorities, she would be deported. In 2007, he made her marry him and fathered a daughter, now 3, with her, police said.
Garcia’s attorney, Charles Frisco, has said the woman’s claims of physical and sexual abuse are lies made up because the couple are separating. Neighbours showed up to support Garcia at his Monday hearing, where he entered the plea through his attorney during a closed-circuit TV arraignment from an Orange County jail.
Neighbours said they seemed like a loving couple, and police say that while Garcia initially locked up the woman, she later got a job and had her own car.
Authorities and psychologists cautioned that both could be true — Garcia could have been a doting husband who controlled his wife without physically restraining her through years of abuse.
Authorities focused on the early allegations of abuse, and Garcia is charged with rape, kidnapping and three counts of lewd acts on a child dating to 2004.
He was arrested last month after the woman, now 25, went two blocks from her apartment to a police station in Los Angeles County’s Bell Gardens and accused him of domestic violence. Authorities then connected her to a 2004 missing person report filed by her mother.
On Monday, a judge scheduled further hearings in the case for next month, and Garcia remained in custody on $1 million bail.
Several of Garcia’s neighbours came to the hearing to support him. Jose Polanco said the woman was thrilled when she got pregnant.
“They were happy, they made parties,” Polanco said. “They were a happy couple.”
“I think maybe she got tired of him, who knows?” he said. “What can I say, it’s like maybe she didn’t like him no more.”
The woman came by with her sister and mother about a week ago to collect her things from the home but she stayed in the car and didn’t speak to anyone, Polanco said.
Outside court, Frisco, Garcia’s attorney, said he wasn’t surprised that the neighbours were showing so much support.
“There is no corroborating evidence that I can see that she was in any fashion sexually, mentally or physically abused,” he said. “We are really looking forward to our day in court.
“We want to encourage people that are held captive that are being held against their will to come forward, let the public know that they are being held captive, and this is having the exact opposite effect,” Frisco said.
Prosecutor Whitney Bokosky said after the hearing that how Garcia treated the woman in recent years has no effect on the case because he is charged with crimes dating to when the girl was a minor.
“Neighbours don’t know what goes on behind closed doors,” Bokosky said. “I don’t really care what the neighbors say.”