13-year-old girl uses 'Help Me!' sign to escape after being abducted in Texas

Steven Robert Sablan pleads guilty to kidnapping
A 13-year-old girl was rescued after holding up this "Help Me!" sign from her kidnapper's vehicle in California, authorities said.
Posted at 1:22 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 13:22:57-05

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 to a federal kidnapping charge Friday as part of a plea agreement, the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said.

Steven Robert Sablan, 62, abducted the girl at gunpoint on or about July 6, 2023, in San Antonio and "engaged in sexual activity" with her while driving her to Long Beach, California, the plea agreement states.

"At the time of the crime, Sablan had no legal custody or familial relationship to the victim," the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.

During the kidnapping, Sablan threatened the child, saying, "If you don't get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you," according to court documents.

The child was rescued on July 9, 2023, after Sablan went into 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 the 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 imprisonment, the US Attorney's office said in the news release. He will also be required to register as a sex offender when released from prison, the plea agreement says.

CNN has contacted Sablan's attorney for comment. Sablan is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 25.

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