By Sufi Sadati
“Que no,” a phrase in Spanish used to figuratively underline a strong “no,” is what the alleged 11-year-old victim told Ms. Lepe during her Multi-Disciplinary Interview (MDI) about whether she liked it when her mother’s friend, Mr. Alvaerez snuck into her house to sleep next to her.
Video showed the girl telling Ms. Lepe that she was “scared he would try to do something else,” as the interviewer asked her about “the touch.” Four documents were added into evidence including: a sheet of paper of people with whom she lived at the time of the incident, who was currently in the home, a diagram of the bedroom where the incident occurred, and a picture of a little girl with the bottom circled – where she indicated she was touched.
The defense was led by Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt, who pointed out the victim only disclosed touching of her bottom and nothing further.
Jessica Ryan, a social worker practitioner with the Yolo County Health and Human Services, was brought up to the stand. She has a degree in psychology and masters in social work with an emphasis on child welfare. Her role was to support, and extract information from the alleged victim after she was taken into Child Protective Services (CPS) and put into foster care.
Between June 13, 2018, and the end of August is when Ms. Ryan became involved with the victim’s case, usually seeing the victim and her biological sister three times a month.
She gave her understanding of the situation and noted the mother had prior knowledge of Mr. Alvarez’s 2011 sexual abuse case and was aware of his sneaking in the house to sleep next to her daughter.
Everything seemed normal until she was called by the victim’s foster parents, and that the mother had taken the children’s phone away during an unsupervised visit.
Ms. Ryan met with the victim accompanied by her foster sister. In the foster sister’s room was where the victim told Ryan that her mother took the phones away because “they needed to lose the phones.”
Yet, the story took a darker turn when the victim apprehensively revealed she had been raped.
She confessed that, while her mother and sister were sleeping, Alvarez would climb into her bed, rape her, and when after he was finished, she would pretend to wake up and hide in the bathroom, sometimes for the entire night.
The days she was too tired to stay up, she wrapped her body in a blanket “so he wouldn’t do it again.”
Terrified her mother’s health would deteriorate due to her prolonged heart related issues, she kept quiet.
After hearing this, Ms. Ryan immediately sent emails to the new social worker, Martha Cervantes, who would be taking her place, and their supervisors, and continued to follow up with texts and phone calls asking for another MDI to be conducted.
Van Zandt brought up the conversation the victim had with a friend at school about the “touch.” The victim had described the event as “happening,” prompting Ms. Ryan to believe it was a reoccurring event.
Ms. Ryan felt there was sufficient evidence to discontinue unsupervised visits between the victim and her mother, perceiving her mother’s actions to be unproductive or obtrusive to the child’s welfare. To her understanding, the victim relayed the message her mother removed the cellphones to “not get in trouble.”
Yet, there was no knowledge of whether the victim came into contact with the alleged perpetrator over the phone.
The defense questioned whether the mother herself knew of the previous allegations of sexual assault, and Ms. Ryan responded, “Yes,”and the mother had felt he was driving around and going to court, essentially “taking care of it” – proving his innocence.
David Gonzalez, a sworn police officer of four years with the Winters Police Department, both questioned the victim and arrested Mr. Alvarez on May 17, 2018.
Sutter Davis Hospital, with the victim’s mother undergoing heart treatment, is where the victim went into detail about the ordeal.
She told the officer of the sequence of events of a typical night of abuse, giving accounts of Mr. Alvarez rubbing her lower back, hips, and eventually pulling down her pajamas exposing her bottom.
He described her as “really scared, crying, and avoiding eye contact.”
Alvarez had been described as nice, showering the victim with gifts, and a cell phone.
When he informed the girl’s mother of the purpose of his presence, she claimed no one had told her of the allegations regarding her daughter.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays had asked to state the birth date of Mr. Alvarez. He is currently 32 years old.
At the beginning of the second session of the day was when the victim took the stand.
The People asked the now 11-year-old victim, obviously uncomfortable, for her birth date.
Throughout the entire questioning, the prosecution continued to use the word “rape” after the victim confirmed she remembered the first time he raped her.
Many of the inquiries were answered with aggrieved “I don’t knows” by the victim. However, spurts of vulnerability led her to say, “I try to forget as much as I could of what happened because I don’t like remembering it.”
Hays bluntly asked if it hurt when the defendant would rape her anally. The victim resentfully responded, “Yes.”
It was revealed the girl had obtained a new phone after her mother had confiscated the original smartphone, mentioning she didn’t have anything to worry about on them.
The People rested their case. The defense began theirs.
Mr. Van Zandt called the assistant principal at Winters Elementary where the girl had reported the initial allegation.
She recalled the day of the event, beginning when the victim was referred to her office after speaking with a friend and crying during her physical education class. The assistant principal substantiated that the victim had told her about a few incidents of the “touch” from Mr. Alvarez, but nothing about being raped – though she did mention she was trying to avoid him.
Van Zant underscored that another student that same day had made a similar allegation with a different suspect. That student was a friend of the victim.
Interestingly, the witness attested that the mother had full knowledge of the alleged ongoing abuse. In fact, the assistant principal had asked her secretary, a fluent Spanish speaker, to translate what the victim had confided in her earlier that day. There were clear indications shown to the mother that the victim had pointed to her private parts.
When asked if the assistant principal felt the mother was sufficiently informed of the sexual abuse her daughter reported, she responded, “Yes.”
Yet, this was the last time the assistant principal saw the mother and daughter duo, after the victim was pulled out of the school in the middle of the semester.