As prosecutors on Thursday charged a man accused of kidnapping a girl a decade ago, raping her and eventually marrying her, some neighbors questioned whether she was held under duress for the entire time.
Isidoro Garcia was charged with one felony count of forcible rape, three felony counts of lewd acts on a minor, and one felony count of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense, according to a news release from the Orange County district attorney's office.
If convicted, he faces up to 19 years in prison. His bail was set at $1 million.
For years, authorities allege, Garcia used violence and threats to keep her under his control, forcing her to work beside him and telling her she would be deported if she left. He also forced her to marry him, and two years ago she had his child, according to police.
Garcia's attorney on Thursday strongly denied his client did any wrong, saying Garcia treated the alleged victim "like a queen."
"Practically everybody connected to the family ... finds these allegations unbelievable," Charles Frisco said. "She had her own car, her own job. It's mind-boggling why she would wait this long. ... Why is she coming forward now?"
The charges filed Thursday all relate to the period in 2004 when the alleged victim was 15 years old.
The woman arrived in the country from Mexico when she was 14. Garcia is accused of raping and sexually assaulting her multiple times at the apartment complex where he lived with her mother after she turned 15, said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.
No charges of false imprisonment related to the decade after the alleged kidnapping have been filed, but prosecutors are still investigating and more charges could come later, Emami said.
The woman was convinced that her family did not care for her and was abused physically, emotionally and sexually for years, Emami said.
"She felt like she had nowhere to go," she said.
She contacted her sister through Facebook in April and reunited with her mother before going to police, Emami said.
Santa Ana police on Thursday pushed back against public statements from neighbors who said the pair appeared to be a loving couple.
Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said those witnesses were not seeing the whole picture, especially the years when she was a minor.
“People are giving the impression that she was an adult,” he said. “She was a minor in a foreign country. That’s a very important part of this.”
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."
Javier Campos, 28, who lived near Garcia's Bell Gardens apartment, said the woman did not appear to be under any duress.
“I just don’t understand how he could have her like that all these years,” Campos said. “The police station is right around the corner."