SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) -- A 16-year-old missing California girl was rescued by fare inspectors on Tuesday after she had been sexually abused and held against her will for months, authorities said on Thursday. Few details about the missing girl were immediately released.
The victim was found when two Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) fare inspectors stopped the girl and an adult male, later identified as 23-year-old Merced Pacheco, while checking proof of payment on VTA's light rail system. The inspectors found the girl had an expired VTA Youth Pass and no identification. Pacheco also had no proof of payment.
Both the girl and Pacheco were asked to deboard the train at the next stop, but suspicions were raised when the inspectors asked more questions. "As the fare inspector asked more questions of the youth, she felt safe to share that she was being held against her will by the adult male," Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. She also reported being sexually abused by him.
Pacheco, who is from the city of Santa Clara, was arrested by Sheriff's Transit Patrol officers on suspicion of unlawful intercourse with a minor and false imprisonment. "The female minor, who was also listed as a missing person, was taken into protective custody," the statement added.
Sheriff's office spokesman Jose Cardoza was unable to provide specific details, but said the girl is from the city of San Jose. "It's still early in the investigation but we do know that the suspect had the victim live with him against her will at his house in Santa Clara," he said. "I'm not sure how long she had been missing for, but she was living with the suspect for a couple of months."
Captain Robert Schiller of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department praised the two inspectors for their quick actions. "Thanks to the swift action and keen situational awareness of the two fare inspectors, deputies were able to respond quickly to the incident that was unfolding, which we hope has prevented a heinous crime from continuing," he said.
Other details were not immediately available.
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