FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — A mother testified Tuesday that a former boyfriend charged with raping and kidnapping her teenage daughter had called her to say he would not bring back the girl after both fled the family's apartment more than a decade ago after a fight.
The woman took the stand in the trial of Isidro Garcia, 42, who is charged with abducting her 15-year-old daughter in 2004. Garcia has pleaded not guilty and contends the girl ran away with him willingly.
Authorities say the girl stayed with Garcia, married him and bore his child under a fake name, fearing she would be arrested or deported if she tried to leave. She went to police in 2014 after reconnecting with family on Facebook.
The mother testified that she told Garcia in August 2004 that he would have to leave the family's two-bedroom apartment in Santa Ana or she would leave with her three daughters. She said they fought too much and he was giving her oldest daughter — who had recently arrived in the country from Mexico — inappropriate attention by buying her clothing and shoes and a computer only she could use.
She said a fight broke out, with the teen fleeing and Garcia following her. The mother said he later called and told her he had the girl but refused to put her on the phone.
"I asked him to give me my daughter back, and he told me that he was not going to," the woman said through a Spanish interpreter.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman to avoid identifying her daughter.
The account differs widely from the image of a happy couple presented by Garcia's attorney, Seth Bank. Last week, he showed jurors photos of the pair smiling at their wedding and at their daughter's birthday parties and told them of the family's trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
The case drew widespread attention in 2014 when authorities linked the now-grown woman to a missing-person report filed by her mother and arrested Garcia, who neighbors said seemed happy with his wife and worked hard to provide for his family.
Garcia is charged with rape, kidnapping and lewd acts on a child. If he is convicted of the kidnapping charge, he could face a life sentence.
Garcia has acknowledged having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the teen but said he did not rape or abduct her, his attorney said. Rather, the girl left an unhappy home and tense relationship with her mother and fabricated the abduction years later when she regretted her choice and wanted to reunite with her family, Bank has said.
On Tuesday, Bank questioned the mother about whether she told police she overheard the teen and Garcia planning to leave home together. She said she didn't remember that but had suspicions he might take her and had previously consulted with a school counselor about Garcia's behavior toward the girl.
The mother recalled with detail, however, the day in April 2014 when her middle daughter received a request on Facebook from the missing sister.
They met in Los Angeles and spent at least three hours talking and crafting a plan for her to safely break free from Garcia, she said. She urged her daughter to live peacefully with her husband for the time being so they could notify police "and he wouldn't be able to take her away again like he did the first time," she said.
The alleged victim and her sister are expected to testify on Wednesday.