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Kidnapping victim’s ‘Help Me!’ sign leads to girl’s rescue, suspect’s arrest

(Image Provided/U.S. Department of Justice)

(CNN) — A 13-year-old kidnapping victim was rescued in Southern California after making a “Help Me!” sign to alert passersby, which then led to the arrest of a Texas man.

Steven Robert Sablan, 61, is now facing federal kidnapping charges for the incident in which he is alleged to have pulled a gun on the girl as she walked along a sidewalk in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this month.

“If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you,” Sablan told the victim, according to court documents.

Once inside the car, Sablan is alleged to have repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl as he drove her from Texas to California, as outlined in the affidavit.

Sablan was indicted by a grand jury this week on one count of kidnapping and one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges later this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday. CNN is seeking comment from Sablan’s legal representation.

Police said that while Sablan went into a laundromat in Long Beach, California, on July 9 the girl flashed her “Help Me!” sign from inside the suspect’s parked vehicle, prompting a good Samaritan to call 911. Long Beach Police officers said the girl was “visibly emotional and distressed” upon their arrival.

After running the vehicle’s license plate, officers learned that Sablan was wanted on a burglary charge in Fort Worth, Texas, and considered armed and dangerous, according to the affidavit, which also notes Sablan’s prior convictions for robbery and drug possession.

A black handgun, later determined to be a BB gun, a switchblade, and handcuffs, were found in Sablan’s vehicle, according to the federal affidavit.

If convicted on both charges, Sablan could face a sentence of up to life in prison.