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California prosecutors push back against doubts raised in kidnapping case

Attorney Charles Frisco (C) speaks during a news conference after a jailhouse video court hearing for Isidro Garcia in Santa Ana, California
Attorney Charles Frisco (C) speaks during a news conference after a jailhouse video court hearing for Isidro Garcia in Santa Ana, California

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Charges against a California man accused of abducting and raping a 15-year-old girl stem from brutal crimes committed a decade ago when she was first snatched, prosecutors said on Friday in response to remarks by neighbors that the woman showed no signs of distress.

Isidro Garcia, 41, was charged with kidnapping, rape and lewd acts upon a child and a judge on Thursday ordered him held on bail of $1 million, in connection with crimes Orange County prosecutors say he committed against the woman when she was a minor.

Now 25, the woman told detectives she endured a decade of physical and sexual abuse by Isidro, was forced into marriage in 2007 and later bore his child. She contacted authorities this week after reaching out to her sister on Facebook, police said.

"We're talking about the kidnapping of a 15-year-old child who was taken from her mother, taken from her home, taken from her neighborhood and for the past 10 years she has been the victim of ongoing emotional, physical and sexual abuse," said Orange County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami. "You can imagine what that would do to a person."

Since Garcia's arrest, neighbors who lived near the couple in the Southern California community of Bell Gardens told local media they were shocked by the allegations and said the woman never appeared to be in distress. She has not been publicly identified.

"I can't speak to any statements that are being made about her disposition as a 25-year-old woman, but that's not what our case is about. Our case is about crimes against a 15-year-old girl," Emami said.

Garcia, who was a live-in boyfriend of the girl's mother when she went missing, is accused of abducting the then 15-year-old from suburban Santa Ana in 2004, where she they had lived at the time, prosecutors said.

Garcia's lawyer told reporters on Thursday that the teen went with him willingly and was treated "like a queen," suggesting her accusations were prompted by marital problems.

"If you listen to all what the neighbors say, if you listen to what everybody who knew them says, she was free to go," Garcia's attorney, Charles Frisco Jr, said in a telephone interview.

The woman's reported escape comes a year after three women famously emerged from a home in suburban Cleveland where they were held for years and abused by their captor, Ariel Castro.

Michelle Knight, who survived a decade in Castro's captivity, rallied to defend the woman at the center of the Orange County case, telling CNN she should not be doubted.

The woman herself spoke to Los Angeles television station KABC on Wednesday, and mentioned that neighbors thought Garcia was good to her.

"He worked hard for me and my daughter and he bought everything I want," she told KABC. "But I need love of my family, not things."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)

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