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Man who took child to Mexico gets 23 years

SALEM — A Mexican man has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping an Oregon girl he abducted nearly a decade ago.

Raul Xalamihua-Espindola was 19 years old in 2007 when he took an 11-year-old Keizer girl to Mexico. The girl left a note for her parents that said she was running away with her boyfriend.

Friends of the girl told police she had a boyfriend named "Raul." Police determined a man of that name had lived in the same apartment complex.

Authorities found the girl in Mexico several months later and brought her back to Oregon. The suspect avoided capture for many years and it took additional time for him to be extradited.

In May, he pleaded guilty to first-degree rape.

The Statesman Journal reports that Xalamihua-Espindola dropped to his knees Monday and asked the judge for forgiveness. Through a translator, he said it's common in Mexico for girls to marry older men, and he didn't realize he was committing a crime.

"Are you saying that in your culture, taking an 11-year-old from her home without her parents' permission to have sex with her is acceptable?" Marion County Judge David Leith asked him.

"Yes, all of that is acceptable," Xalamihua-Espindola replied.

Leith said it was not his role to dispense forgiveness: "That would be for the victims of the crimes to decide."

Leith said he wanted the sentence to match the enormity of the crime.

"In our culture, these are among the most serious crimes that can be committed," he said, adding he did not believe abducting, kidnapping and raping children would be acceptable in any culture.

The victim and her family did not attend the hearing. Deputy District Attorney Tobias Tingleaf said they were satisfied with the resolution.