ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> After spending two days bound and blindfolded in squalor inside a Rowland Heights garage,a 44-year-old woman grasped one of her rescuers in a firm hug when deputies freed her Wednesday from four suspects accused of kidnapping her for ransom.
Though terrified and weak from having been deprived food and water for two days, the Rowland Heights woman was expected to make a full recovery following her abduction Monday, Capt. Merrill Ladenheim of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau said once the case was made public Friday.
Meanwhile, two men and two women pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of kidnapping for ransom and conspiracy in connection with the unusual crime, according to sheriff’s investigators and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
All four suspects live in Rowland Heights, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
“The victim was located in very squalid conditions in a cluttered garage, on the floor,” the captain said. “She was duct taped. Her hands were bound.” The woman had also been blindfolded with duct tape.
“She was not given food or water,” he said. “She was kept their for two full days, deprived of food and water.” The woman was also forced to relieve herself using a bucket.
The four suspects entered their pleas Friday during an arraignment hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, district attorney’s officials said.
They are the victim’s former friend and longtime co-worker Judith Adriana Maldonado, 40; her boyfriend Francisco Inacua-Rosas, 34; Uziel Cuevas Figueroa, 32 and his girlfriend Rocio Inacua, 32, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. Inacua-Rosas and Inacua are siblings.
The suspects were being held in lieu of $2 million bail each, officials added. If convicted as charged, they could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Inacua-Rosas, Inacua and Figueroa were arrested Wednesday shortly after deputies rescued the kidnap victim, Ladenheim said. Maldonado was jailed Thursday.
Figueroa was guarding the victim in the filthy garage when deputies freed her Wednesday.
Ladenheim said the woman’s nightmare began Monday afternoon as she was heading home from work at a factory in Industry, where she had worked alongside Maldonado for “many years,” Ladenheim said.
One of the kidnappers, later identified as Inacua, called victim’s husband of two decades and demanded a $110,000 ransom, Ladenheim said. She threatened to kill or hurt the victim if the demand was not met.
“The plot was purely for financial gain,” Ladenheim said.
Maldonado had heard the victim mention that she and her husband had saved up some money, but the family did not have access to the large sum of money demanded by the kidnappers, sheriff’s officials. The victim’s husband immediately notified authorities of the kidnapping and ransom call.
Inacua-Rosas offered the victim a ride as she was walking along Colima Road in Rowland Heights Monday afternoon, sheriff’s officials said. She had just missed her bus home. During the ride, he contacted his alleged co-conspirators via text messages.
Inacua-Rosas drove the woman to a restaurant where he told her he was going to get some food, Ladenheim said.
“Both Rocio Inacuna and Uziel Figueroa then, at gunpoint, forced the victim down the floorboard, bound, gagged and blindfolded her, and drove her to that garage in Rowland Heights,” the captain said. And for two days, she remained a captive.
He described a dramatic scene as deputies entered the garage where the woman had been held.
“Upon being rescued from those squalid conditions, she removed her blindfold, the duct tape, and immediately saw the lead detective, who happened to be in the door of the garage,” Ladenheim said.
“She immediately hugged the detective,” he said. “It was a very, very emotional rescue, and we are happy to report that she is safe and expected to make a full recovery.”
The captain described the kidnapping victim as “very hard-working” and “a very honest citizen.”
Officials said the suspects speak only Spanish, however their immigration status remained under investigation Friday.
Ladenheim said the suspects initially appeared unaware of the seriousness of their alleged offense, or the fact they face potential life sentences behind bars. They asked questions regarding what would happen once they were released from custody.
“While this is a frequent and common occurrence in other countries, we don’t deal with this very often here,” Ladenheim said.
But he added, “I believe it happens more often that is reported to law enforcement.”
Though ransomers generally threaten victims not to contact police, Ladenheim urged anyone who receives such a threat to report it immediately to law enforcement.
VIDEO from press conference: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
PHOTOS of garage courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department