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Breitbart
Breitbart
22 Jul 2023
Elaine Mallon


NextImg:'Help Me': Abducted Teen Saved By Observant Bystander in California

A kidnapped Texas teen was rescued outside a California laundromat after a bystander noticed a piece of paper that read, “Help Me,” written in red ink.

The 13-year-old girl was already listed as a runaway by San Antonio authorities before she was allegedly snatched by Steven Robert Sablan, according to the United States Attorney’s Office. The victim encountered Sablan while at a bus stop when he brandished what appeared to be a handgun and ordered her to get inside his sedan. 

“If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you,” the suspect allegedly said. 

Once inside the vehicle, the suspect asked her how old she was, and she told him that she was 13 years old. She later mentioned she had a friend in Australia, and Sablan allegedly said he would take her to a cruise ship. However, he told her she would have to do something for him first and then sexually assaulted her.

Over the next two days, Sablan drove the victim to California. He allegedly sexually assaulted her two more times during the road trip. On July 9, Sablan drove to a laundromat in Long Beach to wash their clothes. He left the victim in the vehicle, and she wrote, “Help Me!” on a piece of paper. A bystander noticed the piece of paper and the girl and called authorities. When police arrived, Sablan was standing outside the vehicle, and the victim was inside, mouthing the word “Help,” according to court documents.

Authorities searched the vehicle and found a black BB gun, a pair of handcuffs, and the note written by the victim. 

“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,” Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish said in a statement.

Sablan was indicted on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity by a federal grand jury on July 20. The 61-year-old faces a maximum life sentence. 

More than 1.5 million teens and children run away each year, according to National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Family.

Runaways are often a prime target of sex traffickers, as 27.5% of runaways have exchanged sex for a place to stay, according to SharedHope.org.