BELL GARDENS (CBS/AP) — Neighbors were stunned over Wednesday’s news that a Bell Gardens man was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl and holding her captive for 10 years, saying the pair had a happy family life.
Isidro Madrano Garcia, 41, of Bell Gardens, was arrested after the now-25-year-old woman went to police and told them her mother’s ex-boyfriend drugged and kidnapped her, forced her to marry him and fathered her child.
Police described a decade during which the woman — abused mentally, physically and sexually by her captor — was moved at least four times and given multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities. But the pair’s neighbors said the man they knew as Tomas Madrano was a devoted family man who doted on his wife and their young daughter.
“He treats her like a queen. He does his best to do whatever she wants,” said Maria Sanchez, who lived next to the couple’s corner apartment in the immigrant neighborhood.
The family was known in the community because they worked and worshipped near their home. They also threw elaborate parties that included costumed characters and raffle giveaways.
A video shot at their daughter’s birthday party last year shows the mother in a long dress with the girl in her arms, line dancing behind her husband as he wiggles his hips.
Neighbors said Garcia worked two jobs and collected recyclables to supplement the family’s income and buy the woman a car.
“Sometimes she just leaves with her daughter in the car. She never looked scared,” Sanchez said.
Rita Salazar, who lives across the street from the family, said she never saw any signs of trouble.
“I’m astounded she waited so long to say something,” Salazar said.
Police say the woman — who reportedly used a fictitious name — tried to escape twice but was severely beaten. They also confirmed the woman’s mother filed a missing persons report hours after she allegedly disappeared.
KCAL9’s Stacey Butler spoke to neighbors who were in shock and who said the entire story makes no sense.
“He convinced her that her family didn’t care [about her],” said Capt. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.
“Something is not right here,” said one woman.
“Who would imagine the guy would have done something like that … I don’t believe it,” said Javier Campos, a neighbor.
“The little girl’s gonna be 4-years-old in October,” said Maribel Garcia, a neighbor. “Just out of the blue, she’s gonna get a hold of her family and say, ‘Oh, I’m in danger. It just doesn’t make sense.”
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