Kidnapping Victim Helps Orchestrate Her Own Rescue By Holding Up Sign Saying 'Help Me'

A 13-year-old girl was rescued after holding up a sign from the window of Steven Robert Sablan’s car in a Long Beach, California parking lot.

In this undated photo released by the U.S Department of Justice is a sign that says "Help Me!" used by a 13-year-old girl who was kidnapped in San Antonio, Texas.

A 13-year-old girl was rescued after holding up a sign from the window of Steven Robert Sablan’s car in a Long Beach, California parking lot.

Photo by: U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice

On July 6, 2023, a 13-year-old girl walking along a street in San Antonio was kidnapped by Steven Robert Sablan, a 62-year-old man from Cleburne, Texas. He drove up to her and raised a handgun. The Associated Press reported he then warned her, “If you don’t get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you.” She was rescued three days later after holding up a “Help Me” sign from the window of Sablan’s car in a parking lot in Long Beach, California.

Sablan has now pleaded guilty to kidnapping the 13-year-old girl at gunpoint. He admitted to driving her to California, threatening her with a firearm, and sexually assaulting her multiple times, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. He has been held in federal custody since July 2023.

Sablan confessed to abducting the victim and driving her nearly 1,400 miles to California in his gray Nissan Sentra. He used a gun to control her during the ordeal, according to his plea agreement. He had no legal custody of the teen and didn’t have a familiar relationship to her.

On July 9, when Sablan went into a laundromat in Long Beach, the young girl held up a handwritten “Help Me” sign as a plea for help in the window of Sablan’s car. A passerby saw it, acknowledged the sign, and called 911.

Officers from the Long Beach Police Department soon arrived and found the victim. She mouthed “help” to them from inside the car. She was “visibly emotional and distressed”, revealed a press release from the LBPD. They also located Sablan and arrested him. He was taken to the Long Beach City Jail, and he was booked for “kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and fugitive from justice.”

Sablan has been retained in police custody since his arrest. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 25. According to PEOPLE, he will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison.

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