The man accused of kidnapping a teenage girl, forcing her to marry him and living with her for a decade pleaded not guilty Monday, and neighbors of the alleged victim and suspect turned up in court to support his version of the story.
The 42-year-old husband and father allegedly kidnapped and sexually abused the woman who would become his wife and the mother of their child.
Police said Isidro Garcia drugged the then 15-year-old and initially took her from her home in Santa Ana to a home in Compton, where he held her captive.
Then, for more than a decade, prosecutors say, Garcia kept her under his thumb, convincing her that her family no longer wanted her.
But it might be a difficult case to prove, given that the alleged victim had her own car and came and went as she pleased from their Bell Gardens apartment in recent years.
“It's more of an emotional prison than handcuffs or being tied up,” said Deputy District Attorney Whitney Borosky.
Neighbors living near the couple in Bell Gardens said they saw no signs of captivity. Some of those neighbors turned up in court Monday to support Garcia.
“She had everything anyone would want. Love. Everything,” said Erika Sanchez, a neighbor of the couple.
Another neighbor recalled her excitement at becoming a mother.
“When she got pregnant she was very happy,” Jose Polanco said.
Garcia’s lawyer said he did not kidnap his now-wife, and obtained false documents simply so he could work.
“If she was physically, sexually, mentally abused, someone would have seen this,” said attorney Charles Frisco.
Police said the victim eventually reconnected with her sister via Facebook, and she was able to come forward and tell authorities she had been kidnapped. Her mother's former neighbors recalled the search for her at the time.
Garcia was dating the victim's mother at the time of their disappearance.
If convicted on all counts, Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 19 years to life in state prison.