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Kidnapped 13-year-old gets rescued after holding up a 'Help me!' sign

By Melanie Uson Published Jul 23, 2023 4:35 pm

Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault.

A 13-year-old just saved her own life by holding up a “Help me!” sign, three days after being kidnapped by a 61-year-old man.  

According to a report by Associated Press, the teen was rescued in a parked car in Long Beach, Southern California early this month after passersby saw her “Help me!” sign and immediately called 9-1-1. 

Detailing the case, the teenager left home on July 6 without telling her parents in an attempt to visit her friend who moved to Australia last year. While walking down the street, a 61-year-old suspect named Steven Robert Sablan stopped and threatened to get into his car. 

“If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you,” Sablan said while pointing a gun, as explained by an FBI agent in an affidavit. 

While in the car, the teen shared with the suspect that she was hoping to visit her friend in Australia. Sablan said he could get her onboard a cruise ship going to her friend’s place but said that she needed to do something for him first. 

According to the affidavit, Sablan sexually assaulted the girl at least three times during the drive from San Antonio through Mexico, and Arizona to California.  

“Meanwhile, the girl’s mother reported her missing to San Antonio authorities on July 7,” the report said. 

The suspect took a stop at a laundromat and instructed the victim to put their clothes in the shop. This paved the way for the girl to write a “Help me!” sign on a piece of paper. 

A group of passersby saw her note and immediately alerted the authorities.  

“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,” the police said. 

The Long Beach officers then found the “visibly emotional and distressed girl” who mouthed the word “help” while the suspect was standing outside the car. 

Following his arrest, the offices found a pair of silver handcuffs in Sablan’s back pocket, black plastic BB gun, a switchblade knife, and black handcuffs in packaging labeled “Fetish Fantasy Series Designer Cuffs,” as stated in the court document.  

The authorities also found that Sablan is also wanted for burglary in Fort Worth, among other crimes he had committed since 1979. 

“The affidavit said Sablan was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon in 1979, robbery with a deadly weapon and burglary in 1985, and possession of a controlled substance in 2016,” the report said. 

Sablan was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. If convicted on both charges, Sablan will be sentenced to a statutory maximum life sentence in prison.