A Los Angeles man accused of repeatedly raping a 15-year-old girl with autism while holding her captive in his home for three weeks pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Samuel Robert Duran Jr., 33, appeared in court on April 16 and pleaded not guilty to a dozen counts in connection with his rape case, KTLA reported.
Duran’s charges include three counts of rape, six counts of forced oral copulation and three counts of forced digital penetration. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
The Los Angeles Times reported that police and FBI had been searching for a teenage girl who went missing between March 24 and April 13.
The girl’s mother said she had gotten into an argument with her daughter over the phone and that’s when she went missing. She said that her 15-year-old daughter has autism and other cognitive issues that cause her to act impulsively and be easily angered.
The mother created a Facebook page to help raise awareness about her missing child and distributed fliers. Then one day, she a got a phone call.
The girl managed to call her mother but the call was disconnected. The mother notified police, who traced the number back to Duran’s Culver City, California, home, according to a news release from the district attorney's office.
The three-week search for the missing teen ended on April 13, but details as to how Duran met the girl are still unclear. According to the Los Angeles Times, sources close to the investigation said the girl initially went with Duran willingly, which is why prosecutors declined to pursue a kidnapping charge.
The victim told her mother that Duran kept her in a room at the house and would rarely let her go outside. She said that he threatened to hurt her family if she tried to leave.
Duran’s family told KTLA that he may have mental health problems. They also expressed doubt about the allegations against him.
Duran was living next door to his grandparents and his uncle said that if anything was happening to the teenage girl, he would have heard it.
“Sam’s a good person. He’s a good guy. He doesn’t hurt anybody,” Duran’s uncle said. “He’s always in his room all the time.”
The victim’s name has not been released and the investigation is ongoing.
The girl’s mother was relieved to be reunited with her daughter, but added that she wants Duran to pay for what he’s done.
“She’s been through a lot and life will never be the same,” the mother told KTLA. “I’m very relieved. However, I want to make sure there is punishment for the crime.”
Duran’s bail was set at $12 million. He will return to court on May 13.
Photo Credit: Screen Capture Via KCAL9