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Pregnant 10-Year-Old Turns Out To Be About 14

January 26, 1996

HOUSTON (AP) _ A girl who disappeared after claiming she was 10 years old and 8 1/2 months pregnant was found with a phony birth certificate and is probably about 14, authorities said Thursday.

Police also discovered that the girl they knew as Cindy Garcia is actually an illegal immigrant from Mexico named Adella Quintana.

The girl’s flight from social workers earlier in the week prompted a desperate hunt because of fears that she was endangering her life and that of her unborn child.

Police found her with her 22-year-old boyfriend, Pedro Sotelo, hiding in a Houston apartment Wednesday night. Sotelo was jailed under $200,000 bail on a charge of aggravated sexual assault and could get life in prison.

``The certificate that we had is the only documentation of her age and apparently a fake,″ said Linda Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. ``We think she’s about 14. We don’t know exactly.″

As far as Sotelo is concerned, it wouldn’t make any difference. A 14-year-old in Texas can legally have sex only with someone no more than three years older.

Ms. Edwards said they determined the birth certificate was forged after social workers interviewed the girl Thursday.

A copy distributed to reporters shows her birth date and place as Sept. 13, 1985 in Houston, although the certificate was not issued until July 31, 1989.

``Nobody in this family has given helpful, consistent information,″ said Judy Hay of Harris County Children’s Protective Services. ``Whether she’s 10 or 14, she’s been sexually abused and we will protect her.″

The girl’s mother, Francesca Quintana gave police a written statement later Thursday saying she obtained the phony birth certificate when the family moved from Mexico so she could enroll Adella in Houston’s public schools, police spokesman Alvin Wright said.

Miss Garcia’s parents are divorced. Her father’s whereabouts were unknown, and police were investigating whether to charge the mother with child neglect.

Police say the girl and Sotelo gave them false names but didn’t resist when confronted by officers four days after she ran away from a shelter for abused children. They were found after a woman took them, cold and hungry, into her apartment and had a friend call 911.

Adella had been taken to a shelter by authorities after she turned up at a welfare office with the phony birth certificate to qualify for food stamps and child support.

Social workers had panicked when Adella ran away because she was just two weeks shy of her due date and her body would be unlikely to withstand childbirth without a Caesarean section. She didn’t even know what one was.

The girl was examined Thursday by an obstetrician who said she probably won’t deliver for another four weeks.

``We do feel we should observe her for a little while,″ said Jude Crino, an obstetrician at LBJ Hospital.

But social workers said they can’t guarantee she won’t run away again.

``We will be doing everything we possibly can to ensure she won’t run away,″ said Sara Webster, a regional director for Child Protective Services.

``But you must understand we don’t have lockup facilities. This child has not committed a crime. She has been abused and neglected.″

The story began in 1994 when the two met at a Christmas party. With heavy makeup framing her almond-shaped eyes and her long, dark hair piled high, Adella looked at least 14. Sotelo, just 5-foot-3, looked no older than 16.

Neighbors didn’t give it a second thought when they saw the couple holding hands and kissing as their courtship progressed. And her father let them share a bed in his two-bedroom bungalow.

Adella’s age didn’t come under scrutiny until two weeks ago when _ her belly bulging _ she handed welfare workers her birth certificate.

Adella’s 15-year-old sister, Oralia Garcia, who lives with her 19-year-old boyfriend down the street, said her sister loves Sotelo, wants to marry him and raise their child.

But whether Adella and her baby will be allowed to stay together remains uncertain. ``My experience is it will take a lot of work before anyone’s going to feel safe about letting either child back to that home,″ Hay said.

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