How a California teen's message on Snapchat helped lead police to her alleged kidnappers

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A teenager’s Snapchat message is what led authorities to her kidnappers, investigators say.

The 14-year-old victim from Northern California was drugged and kidnapped Tuesday by three men — one of whom sexually assaulted her at least twice.

The men drove the girl about 40 miles out of Capitola — where she met one of the suspects — during which time she was disoriented and had no idea where she was, CNN affiliate KPIX reported.

So she turned to Snapchat, typing out the message, “Somebody help me. I’m in a random man’s car … I am not in Santa Cruz. Where am I,” according to the news station.

Snapchat, a social media app, allows friends to share their locations with each other if the app is open on their phone. That location expires after a few hours, Snapchat’s website says.

And it’s extremely precise, one expert told the affiliate.

“Within a few feet,” San Jose State University professor Ahmed Banafa told KPIX. “I’ve tested it many times. It’s even your position inside a building. It gives an approximate location for where that person is standing,” Banafa said.

The victim’s friends were able to determine her location through the app and called 911.

San Jose police officers were able to find the girl and arrested Albert Thomas Vasquez on charges of kidnapping to commit rape, digital penetration with a child under 14 with force, false imprisonment, lewd act with a child and rape by intoxication or controlled substance.

The two other men — Antonio Quirino Salvador and Hediberto Gonzalez Avarenga — were arrested Wednesday on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, police said.

CNN has not been able to determine whether the men have attorneys.

Banafa told the affiliate that the app is easy to use — even in similar circumstances.

“When you’re calling police, people can overhear you,” Banafa said. “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.”

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