Trial begins for man who married girlfriend's teenage daughter brought from Mexico

A California man on trial for rape, kidnapping and lewd acts on a child claims he adored his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter whom he later made his wife and the mother of his children.

But prosecutors paint a very different picture.

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 decade earlier by her mother, soon after she had arrived in the country from Mexico.

In a hearing on Thursday, prosecutor Whitney Bokosky said that now-42-year-old Isidro Garcia actually helped bring the teenager up from Mexico, raped her, abducted her from her family and forced her to live with him under a false name.

She said Garcia began flirting with the girl soon after she arrived at her mother's apartment in an immigrant neighborhood in Santa Ana, California. He forced her to have sex with him and after an argument at the family's apartment, took her to live in a garage the next county over under a fake ID that made her appear older.

Garcia threatened the girl by saying she would be arrested and deported if she very dared to leave, Bokosky told jurors, urging them to look beyond appearances in the case.

"She no longer gets to go back to school like a normal person, she no longer gets to go have friends,” the prosecutor said. "She is not allowed to be alone. He gets to continue to have sex with her and manipulate her."

It wasn’t until she mustered up the courage to reach out to her sister on Facebook in 2014 and attempted to leave Garcia.

A lawyer for Garcia claims otherwise.

Seth Bank told jurors that his client was a hard-working janitor and machine operator who loved the long girl, who, he said, left her family’s troubled Orange County home willingly with him.

He showed photos of the smiling couple dressed in a white wedding gown and suit years later and celebrating their daughter's birthday.

Garcia, he said, was known for working hard to support his family and for adoring his wife, taking family trips to Las Vegas and Disneyland.

Garcia's wife had come into contact with police over the years and never said anything about her alleged kidnapping, Bank said. When she no longer needed Garcia to escape from her unhappy home, she fabricated the story of her abduction to reunite with her mother and sister, he said.

"She made the choice to engage in the relationship with him. She made the choice to leave," Bank said. "He accepted responsibility. He engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with this 15-year-old girl and he started a life with her (...) He never raped her and he never kidnapped her."

With the kidnapping charge carrying a potential life sentence, the lawyers focused largely on whether the girl was snatched or ran away with Garcia.

After Garcia's arrest, neighbors said they were shocked because the couple seemed so happy raising their 3-year-old daughter and hosting parties at their home.

On Thursday, Garcia, who listened to a Spanish translation of the statements via a headset, appeared to sob and shake his head.

Testimony will begin on Tuesday. The woman and her relatives are expected to testify, along with neighbors who knew the couple over the years.

Bokosky has also asked to call as a witness Elizabeth Smart, who was held captive for nine months after she was kidnapped from her Utah home and now works to bring awareness to predatory crimes against children.

Bank said he did not know yet whether Garcia would take the stand.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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