Neighbors hear El Salvadorian man cry for help while being held hostage in Sharpstown, police say

Daniela Hurtado Image
Tuesday, April 9, 2024
El Salvadorian immigrant allegedly held hostage for money by couple
The Houston Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit is investigating after a man from El Salvador was allegedly held hostage by a couple accused of being human smugglers.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit is investigating after neighbors found a man from El Salvador being held against his will by a couple accused of human smuggling.

In court over the weekend, a hearing officer confirmed the victim was an undocumented immigrant who was held captive for days before someone called the police after hearing and seeing his pleas for help.

An eyewitness who asked ABC13 for anonymity in fear of retaliation described it as a scene out of a horror film as this man from El Salvador shouted at the top of his lungs for anyone to help him.

"At the window telling us to help, 'Ayuda. Ayuda,'" an eyewitness said to ABC13.

Neighbors said a horrifying scene unfolded as they saw a man in a window in desperation inside a unit at Las Rocas Apartments on Fondren Road.

"(It was) like a 'Saw' movie - how people react; hitting the window, anxiety, scared," the eyewitness said.

The victim pleaded for anyone to get him out of the apartment after police said he was being held captive for days without food or water.

Police said the criminals accused in this smuggling situation are a man, Jose Alejandro Saloj, and his pregnant wife, Petrona Nohemi Yac.

A hearing officer during probable cause court said she believes there was an intent to neglect the victim until he died.

Investigators said the duo is accused of being "coyotes" and brought the victim into the United States illegally before trapping him in their home where their 8-month-old also lives. Investigators added that the man was able to seek help after pulling back a piece of plywood that someone had screwed in.

During probable cause court, a hearing officer said the man was stripped of his belongings and thrown inside a room with boarded-up windows as the pair is accused of demanding more money from the victim to be released.

The couple accused of this crime are being held for smuggling and unlawful restraint on a $75,000 bond. The hearing officer said she was concerned there may be more victims.

The district attorney's office confirmed the victim will likely be granted U nonimmigrant status, or U visa, and will likely not go back to El Salvador until his accusers' case is seen through criminal court.

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