Girl who chewed shackles was held captive with bodies of mother and brother, sheriff says

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A 12 year old girl who was held captive for a week in a mobile home containing what later turned out to be the decomposing, dismembered remains of her mother and brother provided important information that led to the arrest of the woman’s live-in boyfriend, authorities said Thursday.

The girl, who nibbled through the shackles to escape the residence while the man was away, “is a hero because she survived the incident and came forward with the information she provided us to indict him”, said Sheriff Jimmy Abbett of Tallapoosa County.

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The child, who was discovered Monday along a country road by a passerby after her escape, is now safe in the custody of child protection officers. Her braces were damaged from chewing and marks on her wrists indicated she was tied up, authorities said.

Attacked and used alcohol to keep her sedated, the girl fled after chewing through the tires that held her to a bed, authorities said in court documents.

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José Paulino Pascual-Reyes, 37, was charged with kidnapping and multiple murders in the murders of what authorities say were the girl’s 29-year-old mother and her son, who court records show were under 14.

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Jose Paulino Pascual-Reyes

Tallapoosa County Prison


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

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

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

Pascual-Reyes was arrested Monday night while working on a construction site in Auburn, more than 20 miles from the mobile home. He is being held without a 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 hadn’t had a chance to meet with him yet.

Reyes, who is from Mexico, was in the country illegally after he was deported and returned without proper documentation, Abbett said. It was not clear when he last entered the United States, the sheriff said, but the group had been living in the mobile home since February.

Ceja and the two children entered the United States from Mexico in 2017 and remained there after seeking asylum, but their claims were yet to be decided by immigration officials, the sheriff said.

While a few other people live near the mobile home and others had lived in the residence, there’s no indication anyone else knew about the murders or that the girl was being held against her will, Abbett said.

“No one has come forward with information,” he said.

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