FULLERTON, Calif. – A jury on Friday found a California man guilty of committing lewd acts on a 15-year-old girl who later married him, had his child and stayed with him for a decade after she disappeared from her mother's California home.
Jurors reached their verdict in the case against 42-year-old Isidro Garcia. He was found not guilty of kidnapping to commit a sex crime, and the jury deadlocked on a charge of rape.
Prosecutors said Garcia kidnapped his then-girlfriend's teenage daughter after a fight at the family's Santa Ana apartment in 2004 and threatened and beat her for years until she mustered the courage to report him to authorities.
Garcia contended the teen ran away with him willingly to escape an unhappy home and fabricated the abduction story in 2014 after reconnecting with her family on Facebook.
There was no dispute that the girl got into a truck and drove off with Garcia in 2004 after a fight between Garcia and her mother. The question at the heart of the case was whether she did so willingly or because she felt trapped after Garcia told her she couldn't go home because police had been called to the family's apartment.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony from the now-26-year-old woman, her mother and sister about the fight at the family's two-bedroom apartment in an immigrant neighborhood in Santa Ana -- the last time Garcia and the girl were seen by the family in a decade.
She testified that Garcia had begun favoring her and buying her clothes soon after she arrived from Mexico in 2004 and forced her to have sex multiple times. After the fight in 2004, she headed to a park and Garcia followed, telling her police had arrived at the home and would arrest her if she returned there, she testified.
Garcia took her to a locked garage in nearby Los Angeles County, gave her fake identification and kept her with him constantly at first, beating her twice when she tried to leave, she said.
Over time, she had more freedom and eventually made friends, but Garcia hit her when she refused sex, so she gradually accepted her situation, married him and underwent fertility treatments to bear his child, she testified.
After reconnecting with her family on Facebook in 2014, she went to police alleging a domestic violence incident and revealed she was the missing teen.
Neighbors and friends were shocked when Garcia was arrested and said he doted on his wife, loved his daughter and hosted frequent parties at the family's home in Bell Gardens.
During the trial, defense attorney Seth Bank showed photos of the couple smiling at their wedding and daughter's birthday parties. He told jurors that Garcia worked hard at jobs as a janitor and machine operator to support his family and took them to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
Garcia acknowledged having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the teen but did not rape or abduct her, Bank said. Rather, the woman fabricated the kidnapping story years later after she lamented her choice and wanted to reunite with her family, he said.
Garcia pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
The Associated Press does not name people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.