“Help me” sign leads to a missing teenager’s rescue and arrest

A 13-year-old Texas girl allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted by her captor has been rescued after attracting the attention of a stranger with a makeshift “Help Me” sign.

Steven Robert Sablan, 61, of Cleburne, Texas, has been charged with kidnapping and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity after he allegedly abducted the young teenager on July 6, federal prosecutors said announced Thursday.

The "help me" Sign used by a 13-year-old girl allegedly kidnapped in Texas.
The “Help Me” sign posted by a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped in Texas.

According to a federal complaint, the 13-year-old was walking down the street to a San Antonio bus stop when Sablan approached her in a silver Nissan. The girl’s mother, who reported her missing on July 7, told officers the girl left home without telling her parents and that she will attempt to travel to Australia to visit a friend who has moved there, the complaint said.

Sablan pulled out what appeared to be a gun and said to the girl, “If you don’t get in the car with me, I’ll hurt you,” authorities said, and she obeyed, fearing for her life.

According to the complaint, Sablan asked the girl’s name and age and she told him about her friend in Australia. He reportedly said he could take her on a cruise ship to visit her boyfriend if she would do something for him first.

According to the complaint, Sablan sexually assaulted the 13-year-old in the back seat of his car on at least 10 occasions, despite repeated orders to stop him.

Prosecutors said the girl was afraid Sablan would hurt her if she didn’t comply.

Over the next few days, authorities said, he would continue to sexually harass the 13-year-old while driving her from Texas to California.

When Sablan entered a laundromat in Long Beach, California on July 9, the 13-year-old stayed in the car and wrote “Help me!” on a piece of paper to get someone’s attention. Someone saw her with the sign and called the police, authorities said. When officers arrived, they found Sablan standing in front of his car while the girl yelled “help” from inside, according to the complaint.

During their search, police said they found a black air pistol, a pair of handcuffs in Sablan’s back pocket and the “Help Me” sign.

Sablan was charged in connection with the girl’s alleged kidnapping and is scheduled to face charges on July 31.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of life imprisonment.

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