Texan Admits Kidnapping Girl Who Wrote 'Help Me!' Sign

13-year-old was rescued thanks to her plea for help
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 21, 2024 7:30 AM CST
Texan Admits Kidnapping Girl Whose Sign Led to Rescue
The undated photo shows the sign used by a 13-year-old girl kidnapped in Texas.   (U.S. Department of Justice via AP, File)

A Texas man has pleaded guilty to kidnapping a 13-year-old girl who was rescued in Southern California when a passerby saw her hold up a "Help Me!" sign in a parked car. Steven Robert Sablan, 62, of Cleburne, Texas, admitted in a plea agreement that he sexually assaulted the victim while driving her from Texas to California, according to a statement Friday from the US Attorney's Office in the Central District of California. The girl was rescued July 9 in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, after a passerby called 911 to report seeing her hold up the piece of paper with the handwritten desperate plea for help, per the AP.

Sablan, who has been in federal custody since July 2023, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping, prosecutors said. In July, Sablan was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit that the girl was walking down a street in San Antonio on July 6 when Sablan drove up, raised a handgun, and told her, "If you don't get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you." Sablan faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life at his October sentencing.

(More rescue stories.)

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