Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to the media this week that a man accused of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl and holding her hostage, as well as murdering three others, is a previously deported illegal alien who had entered the United States without permission.
On Monday, the 12-year-old girl escaped the mobile home of 37-year-old José Paulino Pascual-Reyes. Police in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, responded to a 911 call from a driver who found the girl walking alone alongside a road in Dadeville, Alabama. Upon arriving at the scene, authorities found two corpses. Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett confirmed at a press conference Tuesday that court documents revealed the girl had been assaulted, drugged with alcohol, and tied to a bed post for nearly a week before escaping.
In a statement given to Daily Caller News Foundation, an ICE spokesperson confirmed that Pascual-Reyes was previously deported in 2014.
“It’s horrendous to have a crime scene of this nature and also a 12-year-old juvenile to deal with this horrendous situation,” Abbett said on Tuesday.
The girl was crucial in helping authorities launch a 24-hour investigation that led to the arrest of Pascual-Reyes in Auburn, Alabama — about 25 miles from the mobile home where he’s resided since February, police estimated.
Authorities also charged Pascual-Reyes on two counts of abuse of a corpse. He’s currently being held in Tallapoosa County Jail pending a bond hearing.
It’s unclear when Pascual-Reyes kidnapped the girl. According to the DCNF, the two bodies found were those of Pascual-Reyes’ girlfriend and her 14-year-old son.
Jacqueline Burgess, executive director of the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center, told WSFA that the girl showed bravery and courage in ways she had never seen before.
Burgess said the girl remains safe and protected while the investigation continues.
“Our role in that is to interview the child in a way that’s not scary,” Burgess said. “That is developmentally appropriate so that they’re not questioned by 50 different people on what is probably the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to them.”
“We don’t ever want their life to be defined by these events,” she added. “We want to teach them how to be resilient and how to heal from this trauma.”
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, over 365,000 reported missing persons, including youth, were filed into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Of those, nearly 90,000 records remained active by the end of 2020. About one-third of those cases were regarding individuals under 18 years old.
Brandon Drey contributed to this report.