A teenage Texas girl found “safe and sound” this month after her parents reported her missing in January had actually fled their abuse, according to authorities who say she refused to go along with their plans to place her in an arranged marriage, PEOPLE confirms.
The alleged abuse included beating the teen with broomsticks, choking her “almost to the point of unconsciousness” and, on one occasion, having hot cooking oil thrown on her by her mother, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters.
“It’s really heartbreaking to hear,” Salazar said at an impromptu news conference on Friday.
The girl’s father, Abdulah Fahmi Kala Al Hishmawi, 34, and her mother, 33-year-old Hamdiyah Sabah Al Hishmawi, both of San Antonio, have since been arrested and charged with continuous abuse of a family member, the sheriff announced.
The parents were released from custody Sunday after posting $30,000 bond each, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. It could not be determined on Monday if they have retained attorneys who could comment on their behalf. They have not yet pleaded to the charges against them.
The young girl, whose identity is being protected by PEOPLE because she is a minor, told authorities the alleged abuse began around June 2017 when she was 15 and continued through January of this year, after she had turned 16, according to an affidavit for a search warrant of the family’s home obtained by PEOPLE.
Following a practice of their religious faith, the girl’s parents allegedly had contracted for her to marry a 28-year-old “known family acquaintance,” which included a $20,000 cash payment deposited into the father’s credit union account on the day the girl turned 16, the youngest age at which a person can legally marry in Texas, the affidavit states.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Before that birthday, the girl had been personally offered “gold jewelry and gold bars” by the potential husband, “which she refused,” according to the affidavit.
“Because the child victim was refusing to marry the potential suitor, she was being beaten on an almost daily basis by her mother and father,” the document alleges. “The child victim stated that every time the subject of marriage came up, about her having to marry this 28-year-old suitor, she was beaten with broom and mop handles all over her body by both her mother and her father.”
“In order to stop the physical abuse, the child victim would have to tell her parents that she would submit to the prearranged marriage.”
On Jan. 30, the girl disappeared after leaving her San Antonio high school and her parents reported her missing, going public with their search.
“Please help me,” her father told local TV station WOAI while she was gone. “Every time we go into her room, we cry.”
• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.
However, said the sheriff last week: “It became pretty obvious very early on that this wasn’t a regular missing person’s case.”
“We began hearing reports of ongoing abuse involving this young lady, possibly reports of an arranged marriage, and we believe that that may have been the precursor that prompted this young lady to leave her home,” he said.
His agency agency, working with the FBI, located the girl in mid-March and returned her to Texas but to the custody of Child Protective Services, which also took over custody of her five siblings ages 5 to 15 years old.
“We don’t know if those other siblings are victims of any abuse,” the sheriff said, “but certainly the circumstances involving this case did cause us some concern for those other siblings.”
He said the young girl was located under the protection of an organization in another city that he did not identify.
“Thankfully,” he said, “we were able to find her safe and sound.”