A man suspected of kidnaping two 13-year-old girls and leaving them for dead after raping and shooting both of them was arrested Friday, just 12 hours after one of his young victims staggered out of the desert east of Indio.
The survivor, a 13-year-old Glendale, Ariz., girl, was reported in fair condition at Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, where she was treated for a bullet wound in her neck.
The bullet-torn body of her cousin, Helen Hernandez, also 13 and from Glendale, Ariz., was found in the desert near the Coachella Canal.
Marcus Garcia Martinez, 24, was booked at Riverside County Jail on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and two counts of rape and held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
"We're very glad he was apprehended," a Riverside sheriff's deputy told a news service interviewer. "And I hope he hangs."
Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Dye said Martinez, a construction worker employed by a lumber company, evidently met the two girls late Thursday night or early Friday morning at a convenience store in Coachella, not far from the home of relatives the girls had been visiting.
"He was a very friendly type of individual (and) offered them a ride," Dye said. "They felt comfortable and secure with him, and got into his car."
But instead of going on a pleasant late-night cruise of Coachella, Dye said, the girls found themselves prisoners in Martinez's primer-gray Oldsmobile as he drove out of town.
He stopped in the desert, about six miles north of Thermal and not far from the canal, Dye said, where he raped both girls and then shot them with a .22-caliber handgun.
Car Gets Stuck
"When he thought they both were dead, he tried to drive away," Dye said, "and if he had succeeded, we might have had a lot harder time following him. But the car got stuck . . . and he had to walk."
Dye said the killer walked south toward Thermal, not realizing that one of his victims had survived, was conscious and was also walking out of the desert.
The surviving victim made her way to the highway, Interstate 10, at about 2:15 a.m., he said, and was almost immediately successful in flagging down a motorist who drove her to the Cactus City Rest Stop, 13 miles east of Indio, where he telephoned for sheriff's deputies and an ambulance.
The girl was able to talk to deputies, describe her kidnaper and direct them to the crime scene in the desert before being taken away to the hospital, and Dye said a full-scale search began at about 3 a.m.
The license plates on the car found in the desert were traced to Martinez, he said, and deputies, assisted by the U.S. Border Patrol, followed his tracks from there to Thermal.
Border Patrol Agent Dave Lindemann said the search was called off at about 8:30 a.m.
"By that time," he said, "we had a pretty good idea of who we were looking for--and where to find him."
"We developed information from (Martinez's) family and friends," Dye said, "about where he might be staying and found him at his sister's house" in nearby Desert Hot Springs at about 2:40 p.m.
Dye said Martinez had tried to conceal his presence in the house, but surrendered peacefully when he was found.