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Missing US woman found after 10 years in captivity

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A 25-year-old woman who has been missing for 10 years has come forward to police in California to say she was snatched as a teenager, kept in a flat against her will and forced to have a child.

The unnamed woman contacted police on Tuesday, prompting the arrest of 41-year-old Isidro Garcia on charges of of kidnapping, rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment.

The woman says Garcia, her mother’s former boyfriend, abducted her aged 15 in 2004 when he was living with her family in the Orange County city of Santa Ana.

He allegedly beat up her mother before drugging her and taking her to an apartment in the Los Angeles city of Compton 26 miles away.

The unnamed woman with her daughter in a photo obtained by the BBC

According to police, Garcia then physically and sexually assaulted the woman over a period of months and years. As time passed, he let her out of the apartment but maintained emotional and actual control over her - even arranging for her to work in a night cleaning service with him, so that he could keep her close.

"Over the course of the following months and years, Mr Garcia repeatedly told the victim her family had given up looking for her, and if she tried to go back to them, the family [originally from Mexico] would be deported," a statement from the Santa Ana police department said.

"Even with the opportunity to escape, after years of physical and mental abuse, the victim saw no way out of her situation and lived a life with Garcia under sustained physical and mental abuse."

Isidro Garcia, 41, who's been arrested on charges of kidnapping and rape

In 2007 Garcia is said to have made the woman marry him, using documents he obtained from Mexico, and he later forced her to bear a child, a daughter, born in 2012.

He moved the family on several occasions to avoid detection.

Neighbours of the pair recall them attending church and holding parties together, indicating just how strong an emotional hold the woman's alleged captor had over her.

At a press conference, Corporal Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department told reporters Garcia had "brainwashed" her.

It's not known how the woman summoned the courage to contact police earlier this week, but the move was preceded by her reaching out to her sister on Facebook. Her sister is said to have told her that their mother had been searching for her using a Spanish language newspaper and television station.

The fate of the woman's daughter is not known at this point.

The apartment building in a suburb of LA where Isidro Garcia is alleged to have held the woman for 10 years

The case carries disturbing echoes of Ariel Castro, who separately kidnapped three teenage girls and held them prisoner in his basement in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, over a 11-year period.

Castro repeatedly physically abused and raped the three women, who were only rescued after one of them managed to escape and raise the alarm last year.

He killed himself in prison last September after being sentenced to over 1,000 years for kidnap, rape and false imprisonment.

Words: Anna Brech

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