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Man convicted of kidnapping 13-year-old girl after ‘help me’ sign led to her rescue
Featured Image Credit: U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE/Westend61/Getty

Man convicted of kidnapping 13-year-old girl after ‘help me’ sign led to her rescue

Steven Robert Sablan will be sentenced later this year after being convicted of one count kidnapping.

A man has been convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old after a disturbing 'help me' sign led to her rescue.

Last July, a passersby in Southern California saw a 13-year-old holding up a ‘help me’ sign in a parked car, police said at the time.

The girl, who was kidnapped at gunpoint in San Antonio, Texas, was found in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles. She was rescued on 9 July when officers responded to a call, and found the ‘visibly emotional and distressed' girl.

“Through their investigation, officers learned the Good Samaritans were in a parking lot when they saw the victim in a parked vehicle holding up a piece of paper with ‘help me’ written on it. They acknowledged the note and immediately called 9-1-1,” police said.

Steven Robert Sablan, now 62, of Cleburne, Texas, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity - the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles said.

Sablan has been in federal custody since July 2023, and has now pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping.

The 'help me' sign.

As per his plea agreement: "On July 6, 2023, in San Antonio, Sablan abducted the victim, held her, and transported her in his grey Nissan Sentra to Long Beach, California," a press release from the US Attorney's Office states.

"During this ordeal, Sablan used a firearm to threaten and control the victim," it adds.

Sablan held the victim until 9 July, 2023, when she was rescued at Long Beach after a passerby noticed the child holding up a 'help me' sign.

The witness subsequently called law enforcement. Upon their arrival, police saw Sablan standing outside his vehicle and saw the victim, who mouthed the word 'help' from inside the car, court documents state.

Law enforcement believe that the victim was a missing runaway from San Antonio, the Department of Justice press release explained.

Police found a black BB gun, the 'help me' sign and a pair of handcuffs from the car.

The laundromat where the kidnapped child was rescued.

Also in his plea agreement, Sablan admitted that during the Texas-to-California journey, he sexually assaulted the 13-year-old.

He had no legal custody or familial relationship to the victim, the US Attorney's Office has confirmed.

United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha has scheduled a sentencing hearing for October 25, at which time Sablan will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

Topics: Crime, US News, Sexual Abuse, Texas, Los Angeles