February 6, 2023

A 12 year old girl held captive for a week in a caravan with the decomposing, dismembered remains of her mother and brother provided key information that led to the arrest of the woman’s live-in boyfriend, authorities said Thursday.

The girl, who defied restraints to escape the residence while the man was away, “is a hero who survived the incident and gave us the information to charge him,” said Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett .

Discovered along a country road by a passerby after her escape on Monday, the child is now safe in the custody of state child welfare officials. Her braces were damaged from chewing and marks on her wrists showed she had been bound, authorities said.

Assaulted and alcohol used to keep her in a coma, the girl fled after chewing through the ties that held her down to a bed, authorities said in court documents.

José Paulino Pascual-Reyes, 37, was charged with kidnapping and multiple counts of murder in the slayings of the girl’s 29-year-old mother and her son, who court records show was younger than 14.

Jose Paulino Pascual-Reyes

Tallapoosa County Jail

“They were a friend and a friend,” Abbett said of Pascual-Reyes and the girl’s mother. “They actually lived there all together.”

The kidnapping charge alleges that the girl was held hostage against her will, not that she was physically abducted from elsewhere and brought home, Abbett noted.

The girl was captured on July 24 around the time her mother and brother were killed, authorities say, and police found two dismembered bodies in the trailer after the child escaped Monday morning. Abet declined to comment on whether the girl knew the fate of her mother and brother while still a hostage, but the dismembered remains were found inside the house.

Pascual-Reyes was arrested Monday night while working at a construction site in Auburn, more than 20 miles from the trailer. He is being held without bond.

Defense attorney Mark Carlton said he and another attorney had just been appointed to represent Pascual-Reyes and declined to comment immediately, saying they would still have a chance to meet with him.

Reyes, who is originally from Mexico, was in the country illegally after being deported and returning without the proper documents, Abbett said. It was unclear when he last entered the United States, the sheriff said, but the group had been living in the trailer since February.

Checha and the two children entered the United States from Mexico in 2017 and remained after seeking asylum, but immigration officials had not yet ruled on their claims, the sheriff said.

While some other people live near the mobile home and others had lived at the residence, there is no indication that anyone else knew about the killings or that the girl was being held against her will, Abbett said.

“No one has come forward,” he said.

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