Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with raping and abducting his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter, but he says the teen ran away with him willingly and eventually married him and bore his child.
Prosecutors are expected to call the now-grown woman and her relatives to testify about the day she disappeared in 2004 with Isidro Garcia after a fight at the family’s apartment in an immigrant neighborhood in Santa Ana, California.
A decade later the woman reunited with her mother and sister after she reached out on Facebook.
They devised a plan for her to escape Garcia, who had told his wife she would be arrested and deported if she ever dared to leave and beat her when she tried, prosecutor Whitney Bokosky said during the trial’s opening statements last week.
The account differs widely from the image of a happy couple presented by defense attorney Seth Bank. He showed jurors photos of the couple smiling at their wedding and at their daughter’s birthday parties and told them of the family’s trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
The case drew widespread attention in 2014 after Garcia’s wife went to authorities near their home in Bell Gardens, California, and said she was the subject of a missing persons report filed a 10 years earlier by her mother, soon after she had arrived in the country from Mexico.
After Garcia’s arrest, neighbors said they were shocked because the couple seemed so happy together.
Garcia, 42, is charged with rape, kidnapping and lewd acts on a child. If he is convicted of the kidnapping charge, he could face a life sentence.
Bank said Garcia acknowledged having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the teen but said he did not rape or abduct her. He genuinely loved his wife and worked hard as a janitor and machine operator to provide for his family, Bank said.
The alleged victim had willingly left an unhappy home to build a life with Garcia and fabricated the abduction tale years later when she began to regret her choice and wanted to reunite with her family, Bank said.