Certainly, there were opportunities for it to come to light.***Nearly eight years ago, the sixth-grader from Bonita Springs Middle was in an unimaginable position. She said that she and the man kneeled before her mother and father, who placed a Bible on their heads and blessed them with water. In May 2010, a school resource officer at Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres met the young woman’s mother.Afterward, she recalls flopping onto her sister’s bed and switching on music, maybe hip-hop. She asked about sending her daughter to a school for pregnant girls.[he] stated that he wishes that [his daughter] was more obedient.”Cultural differences aside, it’s hard to fathom how the arrangement could stay secret for so long. They started talking as friends.“I was just a little girl.”She quickly understood her childhood, games of hide-and-seek and tag in the neighborhood, was long gone. She envied her younger sister, who had time to do her make-up and hair.“My childhood was being responsible and being an adult already. My mom had to show me how to do that.”She knew the arrangement wasn’t quite right, but not how wrong it was.“No one knew about it. The case came to light after the man who fathered her now 6-year-old daughter filed for custody rights.***The teenager and Juarez lived like husband and wife with her parents from about 2009 to 2015.

Her mother told a Lee County deputy she didn’t know the father and offered an improbable story that her daughter and the father met “through a random phone call” made to their house phone when they lived in Bonita.

She refused to bring her daughter to an interview with a child protection team.

But there have been reports of marriages of even younger girls. However, in its present-day incarnation, people in rural areas often do it for money, she said.

Marta Matias, a coordinator and teacher for The GRACE (Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children's Education) Project, is from Guatemala and works in Southwest Florida. Guatemala can be a harsh society for women and girls.

Latino soon realized this case was far from typical.

Afterward, he moved into her bedroom in her parents’ home. They lived this way in Bonita Springs and Lehigh Acres for about six years.“What happened to you was illegal,” Latino told her.

“Honey, we’re going to the police.”The young woman agreed, and the lawyer spent her 60th birthday with her client and sheriff’s investigators.

As she dug deeper, Latino worried similar cases could be going undetected.

When the young woman went to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office this fall, under guidance from her lawyer to report her years as a child bride, she told investigators her parents warned her that her baby could be taken from her if she told the truth. Their statements indicated they “knowingly violated the laws.”The woman’s father told a detective his daughter and Juarez came to him when the girl was 13 to tell him “they were in love.” Her father described the ceremony, but denied it was for marriage.

He also “denied referring to the couple as husband and wife despite referring to them as husband and wife during the interview,” according to the investigation. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office submitted the investigation to the state attorney’s office.

Juarez first came to Suarez’s office with the young woman’s parents.