By Danielle Silva and Lauren Zaren
Defendant in Child Sexual Abuse Case Testifies, Following Child Welfare Workers
By Danielle Silva
A defendant in a child sexual abuse case claims that he did not commit the sexual abuse incidents stated in prior testimonies of the alleged victims and the mother. His testimony followed that of several Yolo County Child Welfare Services workers called by the defense.
The defendant, Margarito Alvarez, has been charged with nine counts of lewd and lascivious acts on minors under the age of 14. During his testimony, Mr. Alvarez stated that he had met the children’s mother, through his work on vehicles. She had called him over to help her fix her car multiple times and they appeared to get along. One day, when she was bringing the children home from school, the mother introduced Mr. Alvarez to her children. Prior to that, he did not know she had children.
He stated that the mother invited Mr. Alvarez to stay in the house at night, which he refused multiple times. In January 2018, he would finally stay at the house after one of the caretakers of the house, had to go to Mexico to take care of her sick mother. The family had stated they wanted Mr. Alvarez there to protect them in the house.
Mr. Alvarez still slept over after the caretaker returned, despite the caretaker not wanting him to be there. He originally had been sleeping on the floor of the bedroom of the mother and the children, but eventually slept on a mattress. He would avoid sharing a bed with any of the children originally, but the children insisted they wanted to sleep in the same bed with him. The defendant stated one child wanted to sleep beside him as she would be sleeping beside a father, as they also addressed him as “Dad.” He would eventually sleep in the same mattress as that child, and the twins would alternate sleeping beside him.
The defendant pressed he was never alone with the children and that he never touched the children. He only learned about the allegations of child sexual abuse when he was arrested. Any time he was with the children, he stated, there was always another adult there.
Prior to Mr. Alvarez’s testimony, the defense had also called several workers to the stand.
The first witness, Social Worker Supervisor Alicia Wasklewicz, testified on her interview of the children at a Davis hospital. In May 2018, she had responded to a request from a mandated reporter and met with the Winters Police Department. Ms. Wasklewicz, Sergeant Kelly McCoy and Detective Dave Gonzales went to the home of the reported children before going to Sutter Davis Hospital for further investigation.
At the hospital, Detective Gonzales asked most of the questions while Ms.Wasklewicz and Sergeant McCoy took notes. The witness noted that one child stated she didn’t like Mr. Alvarez from the beginning. The other girl , the one whom Mr. Alvarez stated in his testimony wanted to sleep next to him first, stated that she found herself comfortable next to Mr. Alvarez. However, despite feeling comfortable, the second girl also stated she believed he was going to rape her and had pulled down her pants on one occasion.
Ms. Wasklewicz spoke with the officers and decided it was best to remove the children from the house under the reason of “failure to protect.”
The second witness, Social Worker Practitioner Martha Cervantez, shared her experience with the twins after the case developed. Ms. Cervantez was the children’s social worker and stated she had a good relationship with them. On Sept. 6, 2018, Ms. Cervantez received an email regarding new allegations from one of the children and planned for a second Multi-Disciplinary Interview, which is an interview given to children suspected of having suffered child sexual abuse. Ms. Cervantez believed one of her coworkers scheduled the MDI, but that interview never happened due to miscommunication. She also mentioned that the children had been reunited with their mother
The third witness, Social Worker Practitioner Britney Webb, took a statement from the mandated reporter. The statement covered the reporter speaking to one of the children, since she seemed to be crying and in distress. This girl talked about being touched in the private area and not wanting to share information since she did not want people to get in trouble. The girl later stated that this may have been done by accident and he may have intended to touch her hip.
The fourth witness, Social Worker Supervisor Amanda Ekman, testified about the email regarding the new allegation and a planned MDI. She stated that since everyone included in the email would have been able to schedule an MDI, they believed someone else had scheduled it. No one had.
The case will reconvene with the testimony of Mr. Alvarez in the afternoon.
Child Molestation Case Nears Conclusion as Alvarez Testifies
By Lauren Zaren
“They loved me” but “they set a trap.”
Margarito Alvarez of Winters remained resolute in his claim that he is not a pedophile on Thursday afternoon. He said he has never touched any little girls inappropriately. He is being tried on eight counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 and one count of the same crime by (excessive) force or fear.
In 2011, he was arrested and tried following accusations of child molestation toward two of his nieces, although he was found not guilty and the charges were dropped. This year, he is on trial once again under accusations of molesting a third child under the age of 14, his ex-partner’s daughter.
He began his testimony (with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter) by claiming that he had friendly, healthy relationships with his partner, her children, and her two sisters and their children, who eventually moved in with them. A few minutes after, he revealed tension in their relationship and alleged that his ex-partner and her daughter fabricated the accusations.
When Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays, representing the prosecution, asked what reason the two had to lie, Alvarez was unable to give a clear answer. He could not identify a motive and again claimed that he had positive relationships with all of the children.
Alvarez explained the household’s sleeping arrangements in a way consistent with previous witness testimonies and Multi-Disciplinary Interviews (MDIs). When he first began staying the night, he would sleep on the floor. After joining him there one night, his ex decided the surface was too uncomfortable for him to continue sleeping there.
His ex and her older daughter would sleep in the main bed, while Mr. Alvarez would sleep next to the younger daughter, 10 years old at the time, in a twin bed.
Hays asserted that, as an adult man, especially given his accusation record, it was very irresponsible for him to agree to this situation. He replied that his ex trusted him and the children liked him and wanted him to sleep there with them.
This sleeping arrangement allegedly led to inappropriate interactions between Alvarez and the younger daughter, which were discussed on previous days of the trial.
When asked why he did not share the main bed with his ex, allowing the girls to sleep together in the smaller bed, he repeated that they wanted him there for protection. His ex has had strangers knock on her front door in the middle of the night on several occasions, and felt unsafe.
Later, he speculated that his ex decided to accuse him of child molestation after a “verbal” altercation which occurred in 2017. When his ex testified earlier in the trial, she explained that he slapped her during this argument. Alvarez claimed that only his own daughter was present during the altercation. He denied that the interaction was in any way physical.
Deputy DA Hays asked once more what motive Mr. Alvarez’s nieces and his ex’s daughter would have to make up false accusations against him, given they had not witnessed the altercation. He replied that he did not know and that “they loved me.”
He recounted being kicked out of his ex’s apartment sometime between September and October of 2017, but did not explain why this occurred. He took his truck and stayed with his brothers in Woodland. Alvarez explained that, once he left, his ex started calling him asking for the truck back. He refused, claiming he owned the vehicle.
It was apparent that Alvarez and his partner were not on good terms at this point, which the defendant cited as the motivation for the “trap” he claims his ex and her sisters set for him. He believes the children were also lying as part of this trap. He was unable to provide any evidence in support of this claim.
When he was arrested in 2017, he believed it was related to the altercation with his ex-partner. He testified that he only learned about the child molestation accusations after his arrest.
Finally, he was asked about attending a baby shower or similar party around one week before his arrest. He agreed that he attended, and said he spent the time watching his daughter and nieces. A previously shown MDI featured one niece describing an inappropriate touch that occurred to her younger niece during the event.
With that, the defense and prosecution had no further questions and Mr. Alvarez stepped down from the witness stand.
Closing arguments will occur at 9am Friday morning in Department 7, and then the jury will begin the difficult process of deliberation, starting Friday afternoon.