'Help Me' note: Cleburne man pleads guilty to kidnapping 13-year-old girl who wrote escape note

A North Texas man accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and taking her to Southern California has pleaded guilty to several charges.

An affidavit said Steven Sablan, of Cleburne, kidnapped the girl from San Antonio last year after he drove up next to her and threatened her.

Sablan has been in federal custody since July when the 13-year-old girl was rescued after writing "help me" on a piece of paper and showing it to someone passing by.

The 62-year-old pleaded guilty on Friday to kidnapping a 13-year-old girl at gunpoint in San Antonio last July and admitted to sexually assaulting her, according to court documents.

"He pulled up alongside of her, and he brandished what appeared to be a firearm and told her to get in the car or he was going to hurt her," explained Chelsea Norell, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office - Central District of California. "Fearful for her life, she got in the car, and he started to drive."

In his gray Nissan Sentra, Sablan took the teen to California.

"And he sexually assaulted her multiple times along the way," Norell said.

Two days after the kidnapping, cell phone footage shows moments after Sablan’s arrest. 

Sablan was arrested at a laundromat. He went inside to wash his and the girl’s clothes. 

The girl was kept in the Nissan. That’s where she wrote and held up a sign that said, "Help me!"


13-year-old girl waves 'help me' note, leading to arrest of kidnapping suspect from North Texas

Federal authorities arrested a North Texas man in California who is accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. Police said she held up a note that said, "Help Me!" from inside a parked car.

Two good Samaritans helped the girl, including one who while at the laundromat says she caught a bad vibe from Sablan even before the girl wrote for help. 

"She was very scared. Yeah, her face was like pale, too," said good Samaritan Touch Vong. "He looked at me something like I know that there’s something wrong with the man, like that evil face. Yeah, his eye, look at me, yeah."

"This child would not have been recovered without the acts of the good Samaritans involved," Norell said.

The gun turned out to be a BB gun, but officers found a pair of silver handcuffs in Sablan’s back pocket and a switchblade in his Nissan. He was wanted for a burglary charge in Fort Worth. 

Sablan was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon in 1979 and again in 1985 and possession of a controlled substance in 2016.

A sentencing hearing is set for October 25. 

Sablan will face a mandatory minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life.

The plea agreement also states when he is released from prison, he will also be required to register as a sex offender.