Isidro Garcia, 41, of Bell Gardens, California, was arrested for kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment after the woman, who is now 25, went to Santa Ana police on Tuesday.
The woman told police that Garcia kidnapped her in August 2004 after allegedly assaulting her mother, whom he was living with. He kept the teen captive, telling her that her family wasn’t looking for her and they would be deported if she contacted police, authorities say.
The woman, who claims she suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse, ended up marrying Garcia in 2007 and giving birth to a daughter in 2012.
Charles Frisco, Garcia’s attorney, said on Thursday after a brief court hearing that the woman made the statements because the couple was breaking up.
“Practically everybody connected to the family … finds these allegations unbelievable,” Frisco said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “She had her own car, her own job. It’s mind-boggling why she would wait this long. … Why is she coming forward now?”
Garcia – who was charged Thursday with five felony counts including rape and kidnapping to commit a sexual offense – denies all the allegations, and says that he never hit his wife and would never have prevented her from leaving.
The woman told ABC 7 on Wednesday that throughout those years with Garcia he’d beat her when she’d tried to escape his control and says she was too afraid to ask for help from friends and neighbors.
“I was 15. I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
Police say Garcia arranged to get the woman multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities and they moved at least four times. The woman told police that she often thought about escaping but stayed out of fear.
She finally found the courage to go to police after finding her sister on Facebook in April.
“I was very afraid about everything because I was alone,” she said. “I [thought] I was alone, but I never was. My family was with me.”