A vigilant bystander in California played a crucial role in rescuing a kidnapped Texas teen who was found in a laundromat, thanks to a note she had written pleading for help.
The 13-year-old girl, who was already listed as a runaway by San Antonio authorities, was allegedly abducted by Steven Robert Sablan, as reported by Breitbart.
The victim encountered Sablan at a bus stop where he threatened her with what seemed to be a handgun and forced her into his car. Sablan allegedly told the girl, "If you don't get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you."
Once inside the car, Sablan asked the girl her age, to which she responded that she was 13. She mentioned having a friend in Australia, and Sablan promised to take her to a cruise ship.
However, he demanded that she do something for him first, after which he sexually assaulted her.
Over the next two days, Sablan drove the victim to California, allegedly assaulting her two more times during the journey. On July 9, Sablan stopped at a laundromat in Long Beach to wash their clothes.
He left the victim in the vehicle, where she wrote "Help Me!" on a piece of paper.
A bystander noticed the piece of paper and the girl and immediately called the authorities.
When the police arrived, Sablan was standing outside the vehicle, and the victim was inside, silently mouthing the word "Help," according to court documents.
Authorities searched the vehicle and found a black BB gun, a pair of handcuffs, and a note. The note, written by the victim, was crucial in her being rescued.
The horrifying discovery sheds further light on the sinister crime committed.
Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish praised the community's vigilance and willingness to get involved. He said in a statement,
"I want to commend our community members for their vigilance and willingness to get involved by calling 911. This incident highlights the critical role community members play in keeping people safe."
Sablan was indicted on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. A federal grand jury made the decision on July 20. The 61-year-old faces a maximum life sentence.
According to the National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Family, more than 1.5 million teens and children run away each year.
Runaways are often prime targets of sex traffickers, with 27.5% of runaways having exchanged sex for a place to stay, as reported by SharedHope.org.