FULLERTON, Calif. — A woman testified Tuesday that a former boyfriend who is accused of raping and kidnapping her teenage daughter more than a decade ago called and told her he would not bring back the girl after a fight at the family’s apartment.
The mother took the stand in a Southern California courtroom in the trial of Isidro Garcia, 42, who is charged with abducting her 15-year-old daughter in 2004. Garcia has pleaded not guilty and contends the girl ran away with him willingly.
Authorities say the girl stayed with Garcia, married him and bore his child under a fake name, fearing she would be arrested or deported if she tried to leave. She went to police in 2014 after reconnecting with family on Facebook.
In more than two hours of testimony, the mother said she told Garcia in August 2004 that he would have to leave the family’s apartment in an immigrant neighborhood of Santa Ana or she would leave with her three daughters. She said they fought too much and he was giving her oldest daughter inappropriate attention by buying her clothing and shoes and a computer only she could use.
She said a fight broke out, with the 15-year-old fleeing and Garcia following her. The mother said he later called and told her he had the girl but refused to put her on the phone.
“I asked him to give me my daughter back, and he told me that he was not going to,” the woman told jurors through a Spanish interpreter.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman to avoid identifying her daughter.
The account differs widely from the image of a happy couple presented by Garcia’s attorney, Seth Bank. Last week, he showed jurors photos of the pair 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 when authorities linked the now-grown woman to a decade-old missing-person report filed by her mother. After Garcia’s arrest, neighbors said they were shocked because the couple seemed so happy together.
Garcia 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.
Garcia acknowledged having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the teen but said he did not rape or abduct her, his attorney said. Garcia genuinely loved his wife and worked hard as a janitor and machine operator to provide for his family, Bank said.
The attorney alleges that the girl had willingly left an unhappy home and fabricated the abduction years later when she regretted her choice and wanted to reunite with her mother.
On the stand Tuesday, the mother recounted with a huge grin the day in April 2014 when her middle daughter received a request on Facebook from the missing sister and began crying.
They arranged to meet in Los Angeles and spent at least three hours talking and crafting a plan for her to safely break free from Garcia, she said.
She urged her daughter to live peacefully with Garcia so they could notify police “and he wouldn’t be able to take her away again like he did the first time,” she said.
Garcia’s lawyer is expected to continue questioning the woman later Tuesday.