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Family Arrested in N.Y. Rape Case

December 9, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A lawyer for a family accused of kidnapping a girl and holding her captive for more than a year says the girl willingly sought the family out to escape abuse in her home.

``This was a girl who came to my client and his family and said her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had allegedly abused her,″ said Michael Marinaccio, attorney for Pedro Garcia, 46.

Garcia, a superintendent of the Bronx building where the girl also lived, and his wife, Betsaida Garcia, 32, were ordered held without bail Wednesday on charges of second-degree kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child.

Their 15-year-old son Antonio was also held, charged with first-degree rape. All face 25 years in prison if convicted.

The family is accused of holding their young neighbor in the building’s furnace room for a year and prosecutors said Antonio Garcia raped the girl during that time. He was to be tried as an adult.

Marinaccio vehemently denied his client and his family abused the girl, now 14.

``She celebrated last Christmas with my client and his family,″ Marinaccio said. He added that it was his understanding that ``everyone knew the child was living with the Garcias.″

Meanwhile, a police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the girl had had a relationship with Antonio prior to her alleged kidnapping, and would often stay at his apartment.

The source also said the girl’s mother, who had reported her missing in March 1998, later told police her daughter had run away. Police closed the case in June 1998 after neighbors said they had seen the girl with her mother, the source said.

A certified letter sent that month by police to the mother about the case was returned with no forwarding address. Prosecutors said the girl was taken to Puerto Rico by her captors last March to stay with acquaintances who contacted police in May.

Steve Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case, saying the investigation was ongoing. Police Commissioner Howard Safir also refused to discuss specifics, but conceded there were several questions to answer.

``There’s a lot of discrepancies between what our investigation has shown and what has been reported by other people in this case,″ Safir said.