HOUSTON (AP) _ It's a case shocking even to social workers accustomed to seeing children having children: a 10-year-old who is 8 1/2 months pregnant.

``She became pregnant at 9 _ that's uncommon,'' said Judy Hay, a spokeswoman for the state Children's Protective Services.

Cindy Garcia gave social workers the slip Sunday, and police have intensified their search for the girl and her 22-year-old Mexican lover, Pedro Sotelo. He was charged with aggravated sexual assault and could face a life term in prison if convicted.

The girl's mother told caseworkers her daughter had been running away since she was 8 to be with Sotelo. Before she disappeared, the girl told authorities that she loved her boyfriend and wanted to marry him.

County social workers took Cindy into custody Jan. 12 when she posed as a 14-year-old seeking welfare benefits.

``She's a pretty smart little girl,'' said police Officer Frank Elizondo. ``She gave me a false name and date of birth.''

Cindy disappeared when she went to church with fellow residents of a youth shelter. A girl who fled with her said Cindy mentioned she was going to a relative's house, leading officials to think she may still be in the area.

``We have intensified the search in some Houston neighborhoods,'' police Capt. John Buenik said Tuesday. ``Anything is possible.''

Police fear Sotelo is on his way back to Mexico. If so, extradition would be next to impossible because Mexico and the United States do not have an extradition policy on charges other than murder.

Adding urgency to the search is the fact that Cindy could be ready to give birth at any time, and will need medical assistance to deliver by Caesarean section.