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‘Help me’ sign leads to rescue of kidnapped Texas girl in Southern California

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A 13-year-old girl kidnapped in Texas was rescued in Southern California when passersby saw her hold up a “help me” sign in a parked car, police said.

The rescue occurred July 9 in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, when officers responded to a trouble call and found the “visibly emotional and distressed girl,” police said in a press release Thursday.

“Through their investigation, officers learned the Good Samaritans were in a parking lot when they saw the victim in a parked vehicle holding up a piece of paper with “help me” written on it. They acknowledged the note and immediately called 9-1-1,” police said.

Steven Robert Sabalan, 61, of Cleburne, Texas, was located and detained.

Police said the victim had been near a bus stop in San Antonio, Texas, on July 6 when the suspect approached in a vehicle, pointed a gun at her and demanded that she get in.

Detectives determined that the girl was sexually assaulted while being brought to California, and they found a replica firearm in the vehicle, the press release said.

The girl was placed in the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Sabalan was booked into jail on suspicion of kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and being a fugitive from justice. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney.

Police said the FBI will lead the continuing investigation.

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