An Oceanside, California couple has been sentenced to two decades in prison for keeping an underage relative as a sex slave, prostitute, and housekeeper.
Inez Martinez Garcia and her husband Marcial Garcia Hernandez were sentenced to 20 and 23 years in prison respectively. Both pleaded guilty to multiple counts of abuse against a then-12-year-old niece whom they forced to cook, clean, and look after their children. They forced the girl to have sex with 45-year-old Hernandez and other men for money. If the girl refused, she was beaten and forced to eat large quantities of hot peppers and spoiled food. The girl was also told to lie about her age in order to work in a local restaurant, and the couple kept her income.
The couple helped smuggle the niece into the United States from Mexico after promising her parents they would take care of her and make sure she attended school. Instead, they kept her captive in their home for a year and a half. The niece, who is now 24 and is identified as Isabel, has since returned to Mexico, but she came back to the United States to assist in the prosecution.
“I was a young girl, and the things Inez and Marcial did to me have marked me for life. They took away my childhood,” Isabel wrote in a statement read by prosecutor David Uyar during the sentencing. “Today I can go out and be a mother, a wife, and I can sleep knowing that justice has been done.”
Isabel was rescued after she called police following a particularly severe beating by 44-year-old Martinez Garcia. At the time, she didn’t tell authorities that she had been abused and was sent back to Mexico. When she returned to the United States seven years later, she experienced flashbacks of the abuse and finally filed a police report.
“In all aspects of this investigation, it was human trafficking — from domestic servitude to selling her for sex,” said sheriff’s Deputy George Crysler. “The victim is the reason we are where we are on this case. This young woman had the courage to speak.”
Do you think Inez Martinez Garcia and Marcial Garcia Hernandez should have received longer prison sentences?