BILLINGS - The recent arrest of 39-year-old Billings man Tyson Lee Garza brought some relief to his alleged 14-year-old rape victim and her family, who hopes nobody else has to deal with the terror they have gone - and are still going - through.
"She said, ‘I don’t want this to happen any other little girls, mom,’” the victim's mother told MTN.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare: something terrible happening to your child. It’s especially tough to hear about it secondhand.
"My mom called me and told me what happened," the victim's mother said. "I don’t remember the ride to Walmart. I was doing a lot of yelling and screaming."
MTN News has chosen not to show or name anyone associated with the family to protect the victim’s privacy.
But the girl’s mother wants to share what happened to her daughter in hopes that it might somehow help others.
"We want this as detailed as possible," the mom said, "so that parents can teach their kids, grandparents can teach their kids what to look for."
Court documents detail a terrifying scene, saying Garza lured the girl into his truck by pretending to know her grandfather.
"He said, 'Would you mind helping me?' And that's how he got her to get into the truck," the victim's mom said. “He asked her if she could put the groceries in the back seat in the cab.”
The girl says the man then raped her inside the cab, just four or five cars away from her grandparents’ truck.
Documents say the girl was able to escape after a Walmart employee walked by and caused her assailant to try and hide.
"The thing I was thankful for is that she got away from him," her mom said. "What if he took her? What if he left the parking lot?”
Four days after the incident, the girl’s mother started a social media campaign — with the blessing of Billings detectives — to try and find the man responsible.
"If I get it out there on social media, even if one person shares it, it’s a domino effect," she said.
Garza faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. It’s welcome news for this family, especially this victim.
"She’s happy that he’s in jail, and that’s a lot coming from a 14-year-old," the victim's mother said. "She could’ve wished bad things for him. But she just wants the community to be safe.
"She amazes me, my little girl. She’s a survivor.”