SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and raped was able to lead authorities to three suspects with the help of her Snapchat account, San Jose police said.
According to court documents, investigators say the teen was drugged with PCP, kidnapped and driven nearly 40 miles from Capitola strip mall to a motel outside downtown San Jose. Police say the victim was drugged, disoriented and unaware of her exact location when she sent a desperate plea for help via Snapchat.
The victim messaged, “Somebody help me. I’m in a random man’s car … I am not in Santa Cruz. Where am I?” Investigators say the victim’s quick-thinking left a trail of digital breadcrumbs her friends and ultimately police could follow to rescue her.
“It’s easy to go through the app. Because when you’re calling police, people can overhear you. This is a silent way to broadcast your location. And you have to understand that Snapchat broadcasts your location to multiple friends — not just one,” said Ahmed Banafa, a cybersecurity expert at San Jose State University.
Banafa says the app is extremely precise allowing someone with whom the information is shared to pinpoint your location down to the exact building you’re in.
“It is very precise — within a few feet. I’ve tested it many times. It’s even your position inside a building. It give an approximate location for where that person is standing,” Banafa said.
The victim’s friends shared her location with police, tracking the victim to the EZ 8 Motel on First Street in San Jose. When officers arrived, police found the teen and arrested Albert Thomas Vasquez on suspicion of multiple charges, including kidnapping to commit rape, false imprisonment and rape by intoxication or a controlled substance.
On Wednesday, suspects Antonio Quirino Salvador and Hediberto Gonzalez Avarenga were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and conspiracy.
Police said their investigation revealed Vasquez met the 14-year-old in Capitola and gave her drugs, which made her incapacitated. Vasquez then called Salvador and Avarenga for assistance, who then placed the victim in their car against her will and helped transport her to the motel.
All three suspects have been booked into the Santa Clara County Jail.
Anyone with additional information about the case is asked to contact Detective Anthony Barajas of the San Jose Police Department’s sexual assault investigations unit at (408) 277-4102. Information can also be left anonymously through the Crime Stoppers tip line at (408) 947-7867.
Devin Fehely contributed to this story.