13-year-old girl kidnapped in Texas rescued in California thanks to 'Help me' sign, police say

The suspect allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted the teen while driving from San Antonio, Texas to Long Beach, California.

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Friday, July 21, 2023
'Help me' sign leads to rescue of teen girl kidnapped by man in TX
The DOJ said the 13-year-old was able to make a "Help me" sign on a crumpled piece of paper after she was driven from Texas to California -- and it ended up saving her life.

LONG BEACH, California (KTRK) -- A "Help me" sign led to the rescue of a 13-year-old from Texas who was allegedly kidnapped and driven to California.

Officials say 61-year-old Steven Robert Sablan -- from Cleburne, Texas, which is outside of Dallas -- kidnapped the girl while she was walking in San Antonio on July 6.

According to court documents, Sablan raised a black handgun to his side and told the victim to get into his gray Nissan Sentra. He allegedly said "If you don't get in the car with me, I am going to hurt you."

Sablan asked the girl how old she was, and she replied that she was 13, documents state. He allegedly told her he would take her to a cruise ship to visit a friend in Australia, but she had to do something for him first.

That's when he allegedly sexually assaulted the young girl numerous times.

Over the next couple days, Sablan allegedly drove the girl from Texas to California and continued to sexually assault her at least two more times before stopping in Long Beach, California on July 9.

Investigators say Sablan stopped at a laundromat to wash their clothes and asked an employee where he could grab some food.

The employee told our sister network KABC that she sensed something was wrong, so she stalled him.

Moments later, the girl held up a "Help me" sign she made with a crumpled up piece of paper and a passerby called 911. Responding officers said they saw Sablan standing outside the vehicle with the victim, who mouthed the word "Help."

"I feel happy. I feel like God told me to stop him. That's how she got rescued," the employee, Touch Vong, said.

Police found a black BB gun, a "Help me" sign, and a pair of handcuffs during a search of the Sentra, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

Sablan is charged with one count of kidnapping and one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He's set to be arraigned on federal charges in Los Angeles later this month.

According to court documents, Sablan was wanted for a burglary charge out of Fort Worth, Texas at the time of the alleged kidnapping.