What to know
- After being held captive for a week, a 12-year-old girl managed to escape by gnawing at the restraints that tied her to a bed while her captor was away.
- After the child escaped, the police found two dismembered bodies in the mobile home – the remains of her mother and brother.
- Police said the mother’s live-in boyfriend was taken into custody.
A 12-year-old girl who was held captive in a mobile home with the dismembered remains of her mother and brother for a week has provided crucial information that led to the arrest of the woman’s live-in boyfriend, authorities said Thursday.
The girl, who braved restraints to escape the residence while the man was away, “is a hero for surviving the incident and coming forward with the information she gave us to charge him,” Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett said.
The child is now safely in the custody of state child welfare officials after she ran away after being discovered by a passerby on a country road Monday. Court documents state that after being assaulted and drinking alcohol to avoid a stupor, the girl escaped, chewing on the ties that held her to the bed.
José Paulino Pascual-Reyes, 37, was charged with kidnapping and first degree murder in the killing of the girl’s mother, Sandra Vazquez Ceja, 29, and her son, who was under the age of 14, court documents show.
“They were boyfriend and girlfriend,” Abbett said of Pascual-Reyes and Ceja. – Actually, they all lived there together.
The kidnapping charges allege the girl was held hostage against her will, not that she was physically abducted from elsewhere and taken to a home, Abbett said.
The girl was taken into custody on July 24, around the time her mother and brother were killed, authorities say, and police found two dismembered bodies inside the mobile home after the child escaped Monday morning. Abbett declined to comment on whether the girl knew the fate of her mother and brother while still a hostage, but the dismembered remains were found in the home.
Pascual-Reyes was arrested Monday night while working at a construction site in Auburn, more than 20 miles (32 km) from the motorhome. He is considered blameless. Two attorneys appointed to represent him did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on his behalf.
Reyes, who is originally from Mexico, was in the country illegally when he was deported and returned without proper documentation, Abbett said. It’s unclear when he last came to the U.S., the sheriff said, but the group had been living in the mobile home since February.
Ceja and the two children came to the United States from Mexico in 2017 and stayed after applying for asylum, but their claims had yet to be decided by immigration officials, the sheriff said.
Although several other people live near the mobile home and others lived at the residence, there is no indication that anyone knew about the murders or that the girl was being held against her will, Abbett said.
“No one has come forward,” he said.