The Coast News Group
Marcial Garcia Hernandez sits in a glass booth while waiting for the Dec. 18 hearing for him and his wife, Inez Martinez Garcia, at the Vista Courthouse to begin. Photo by Rachel Stine

Oceanside couple pleads not guilty to enslaving young girl

VISTA — An Oceanside couple pleaded not guilty on Tuesday at the Vista Courthouse to felony charges of enslaving a young Mexican girl for sex. Each of the defendants faces up to 390 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

Inez Martinez Garcia, 43, and her husband Marcial Garcia Hernandez, 45, allegedly enslaved a 12-year-old girl for forced labor and sex for over two years after she was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico in the early 2000s.

The police were called after Garcia allegedly beat the victim severely. The victim was placed in protective custody and reunited with her family in Mexico.

Because the victim moved back to Mexico, the case had been suspended for nearly 10 years. It was recently reopened after the victim, now an adult, moved back to the U.S. and came forward to law enforcement.

Inez Martinez Garcia (left) listens to her translators as her lawyer enters a not guilty plea on her behalf in the Vista Courthouse on Dec. 18. Her husband, Marcial Garcia Hernandez, was seated in the glass booth behind her during the hearing. Photo by Rachel Stine

Members of the North county Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Garcia and Hernandez on Nov. 29 outside of their Oceanside home.

The couple was charged in court on Dec. 3 with 26 felony counts each of aggravated sexual assault of a child occurring from June 2001 through June 2002.

Judge Marshall Hockett set bail for $2 million each. Yet both suspects remain under immigration holds, and as such would be ineligible for release even if they posted bail.

William O’Connell is representing Garcia, and Alan Spears and Daniel Smith of San Diego Defenders are representing Hernandez.

Garcia is currently being held in Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, and Hernandez is being held at the Vista Detention Facility.