US Department of Justice/AP
A 13-year-old girl was rescued after holding up this message “Help me!” » a sign from her captor’s vehicle in California, authorities said.
A Texas man who kidnapped a 13-year-old girl in San Antonio and sexually assaulted her multiple times while driving her to Southern California last year pleaded guilty Friday to a federal kidnapping charge as part of a plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced for the Central District of California.
Steven Robert Sablan, 62, kidnapped the girl at gunpoint around July 6, 2023, in San Antonio and “engaged in sexual activity” with her while driving her to Long Beach, in California, the plea agreement states.
“At the time of the crime, Sablan had no legal custody or family relationship with the victim,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press release.
During the kidnapping, Sablan threatened the child, saying, “If you don’t get in the car with me, I’m going to hurt you,” according to court documents.
The child was rescued on July 9, 2023, after Sablan entered a laundromat in Long Beach, California, and the girl held up a “Help me!” sign from inside Sablan’s parked vehicle. A good Samaritan called 911 after spotting the sign, and Long Beach police officers said at that time the girl was “visibly emotional and distressed” when they arrived.
Sablan faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the news release. He will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison, the plea agreement states.
CNN has reached out to Sablan’s attorney for comment. Sablan is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25.