FULLERTON – A decade after her ex-boyfriend and her 15-year-old girl went missing together, an Anaheim woman’s face beamed as she recalled during court testimony on Tuesday the surprise Facebook message that reunited her with the daughter.
The mother was the first to testify in the trial of Isidro Garcia, accused of raping her teenage daughter, kidnapping her and then forcing the girl to live with him for that decade.
His attorney says she used Garcia to get away from her mother’s home and willingly marry the older man and have his child.
The Register is not naming the daughter or mother to avoid identifying a potential sexual-assault victim.
During her testimony Tuesday, the mother recalled what she described as a tumultuous, physically abusive relationship between her and Garcia. Mistrust intensified after they brought her daughters across the border to live with them in a small Santa Ana apartment.
The mother said Garcia lavished attention on her older daughter, buying her clothes, jewelry and a computer that he wouldn’t let anyone else use.
She was convinced that her daughter and Garcia were sexually involved, but both of them flatly denied it at the time.
On Aug. 3, 2004, a heated fight broke out at the apartment. The mother said Garcia attacked her, thinking she was going to leave with her children; her oldest daughter got between the two adults, trying to defuse the situation.
That daughter ran out crying, the mother testified, and Garcia left a short time later. Nursing a bloody, broken nose, the mother said, she went to a neighbor’s apartment to call police.
Authorities allege that Garcia found the girl at a nearby park, told her the police were on the way to the family’s apartment and she couldn’t go home, and gave her pills when she complained of a headache. Prosecutors say the girl passed out, only to wake up in a Compton garage.
On Tuesday, the mother testified that she received a phone call from Garcia in the hours after he and the girl left the apartment.
“I asked him to give me my daughter back, and he told me he was not going to bring (her) back,” the mother testified through a Spanish-language interpreter, adding that Garcia refused to let her talk to her girl.
Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokoski has told the jury that Garcia made the girl assume a new identify. The two married and had a child, living over the years in Compton, Garden Grove, Tustin and Bell Gardens.
Neighbors and friends believed the couple to be a normal loving family. But behind closed doors, Bokoski alleged, the female was in constant fear of being beaten by Garcia or deported if she went to police.
It wasn’t until April 2014 that the girl, now in her 20s, reached out to her family, messaging her younger sister on her 21st birthday. The mother had a wide smile on her face when she testified about meeting up with her oldest daughter, as well as with her grandchild, several days later.
“We looked at each other, we hugged, we kissed, I hugged my granddaughter,” the mother said. “I told my daughter I loved her very much and I missed her.”
The mother started helping her daughter find a way to get away from Garcia, she said.
“I told her to try to stay with Mr. Garcia as peacefully as possible, so he would give us time to notify police that I had already found her so that he could be arrested, and he wouldn’t be able to take her away again like he did the first time,” the mother said.
The mother said she learned from an immigration attorney that her daughter wouldn’t get in trouble if she went to police to report Garcia. On May 19, 2014, she contacted authorities.
Garcia repeatedly shook his head slightly as the mother testified.
His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Seth Bank, questioned the family’s motives for going to police, noting that they are all undocumented immigrants and could receive a visa if the daughter is found to be a victim of domestic violence.
“You know that there are certain types of allegations that a person who is undocumented can make that help them get legal status here in the United States?” Banks asked.
“Yes, I know that, but that was not my case,” the mother replied.
Testimony is expected to continue through the week.