The attorney for the man accused of kidnapping a Santa Ana girl when she was 15, raping her and holding her captive for 10 years vigorously denied the charges this week, questioning why the now 25-year-old woman would wait until now to come forward.
"Practically everybody connected to the family ... finds these allegations unbelievable," said defense attorney Charles Frisco Jr. "She had her own car, her own job. It's mind-boggling why she would wait this long. ... Why is she coming forward now?"
In multiple interviews, neighbors described what looked like a normal life the couple had been living in Bell Gardens, working long hours, celebrating birthdays, even taking trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios with their young daughter.
Authorities, however, counter that though the girl may not have been confined with chains or locks, she was subjected to abusive treatment that made it impossible for her, until recently, to leave.
Prosecutors allege that the man who went by the name of Tomas Medrano abducted the woman 10 years ago, raped and sexually assaulted her, forced her to marry him and convinced her that her family no longer cared for her.
On Thursday, prosecutors filed five felony charges -- including kidnapping to commit a sexual offense, rape and three counts of lewd acts on a child -- against Isidro Medrano Garcia. All of the charges relate to crimes alleged to have happened in 2004.
Garcia appeared briefly in a Santa Ana jailhouse courtroom for an arraignment, which was postponed until June 9. If convicted, he faces 19 years to life in prison. He is being held in lieu of $1-million bail.
"Over the course of a decade he continued to physically, emotionally and sexually abuse her so that she felt like she had nowhere to go," said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.
In August 2004, Garcia kidnapped the girl after she left her mother's apartment, prosecutors said. Police say Garcia then obtained false papers from Mexico changing the girl's birth date and forced her to marry him. A few years ago they had a daughter.
For many of the couple's Bell Gardens neighbors, the accusations came as a surprise.
Maria Reyes, who lived downstairs from the family, said she had known them for five years. Garcia and the woman would go on trips to Fresno and to local theme parks with their young daughter, she said.
"I don't believe it, it doesn't make sense," Reyes said. "They were a very tight couple, she wouldn't do anything without his approval and vice versa."
It all ended, authorities say, when the woman contacted her sister on Facebook last month and gained the courage to leave.
During a brief interview with KABC-TV, the woman said she was too scared to seek help during the last 10 years.
"I was 15. I couldn't do anything," she said. "I was very afraid about everything, because I was alone. I [thought] I was alone, but I never was. My family was with me."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times