Isidro Medrano Garcia abducted his girlfriend's teenage daughter, fathered her child and used threats and manipulation to hold her captive psychologically for 10 years, even as she feigned happiness to the outside world, an Orange County prosecutor said Thursday.
"This is a case about manipulation," Deputy Dist. Atty. Whitney Bokosky told jurors in her opening statement at Garcia's trial in a Fullerton courtroom.
Garcia, 42, a former janitor and machine operator from Bell Gardens, was living in a Santa Ana apartment complex with his girlfriend and her teenage daughter in 2004. Around the time the girl turned 15, the prosecutor said, Garcia began sexually assaulting her.
The girl had seen Garcia hit her mother and feared his violence, Bokosky said, and she was vulnerable and confused. She had been raised in Mexico and recently brought into the United States illegally, with no command of English.
In August 2004, the prosecutor said, Garcia abducted the teenager and confined her to a garage in Compton, where the only toilet was a bucket. Bokosky said Garcia beat her when she tried to escape.
The mother filed a missing persons report with the Santa Ana Police Department but wouldn't see her daughter again for 10 years.
According to Bokosky, Garcia married the girl under a fake name. When their child was born in 2010, Garcia told her she would be deported if she went to police and that the baby would be taken from her, the prosecutor said.
"She plays the good wife," Bokosky said. "She smiles for pictures."
In April 2014 — after they had been living in Bell Gardens for years as a family — the young woman contacted her sister online and arranged a meeting with her and her mother. That led to their ultimately contacting police.
Garcia could face life in prison if convicted of forcible rape, kidnapping and committing lewd acts on a 15-year-old.
In his opening statement, Deputy Public Defender Seth Bank showed jurors a series of photographs portraying Garcia and his accuser as a seemingly happy couple — at their wedding, at a baby shower, on vacation, in the maternity ward, at the child's birthday parties. Frequently, she is smiling.
Describing her story as "tremendously convenient and self-serving," the defense attorney said the accuser used Garcia to escape from her mother, whom she hated, and then decided she had no further use for him.
He said they had a consensual sexual relationship. "He really, truly loved her," Bank said. "It was true, genuine affection.... He never raped her and he never kidnapped her."
Bank said Garcia was a humble man who worked 75 to 80 hours a week to provide for his family. The defense attorney described the accuser this way: "She liked brand clothing, she liked brand-new cars, she liked jewelry."
Furthermore, Bank said, she was the dominant one in the relationship. "When she said 'jump,' he said, 'How high?'"
During the seven years they lived in Bell Gardens, they were just down the street from a police station, the defense attorney said.
Head lowered over the defense table, Garcia sobbed silently through opening statements, occasionally wiping his eyes.
When the jury had been excused, Bokosky told Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Leversen that if Garcia couldn't control himself emotionally, he should ask for a break.
The trial is expected to continue Tuesday. Sometime next week, the prosecution hopes to call Elizabeth Smart to testify about the dynamics of abduction cases.
In a notorious case, Smart was kidnapped as a 14-year-old from her Salt Lake City home, raped by a street preacher, forced into a polygamous marriage and held captive for months before she was rescued.