Clarisa Santos was 8 when she told her mother her stepfather was sexually abusing her. Her mother chose to believe her husband.
Four years later, Clara Santos caught Jose Manuel Gonzalez sneaking out of the girl’s bedroom, testimony in Gonzalez’s trial revealed Wednesday.
That time, Clara Santos took her daughter to the hospital and called police. She testified Wednesday that he wishes she had done so sooner.
Gonzalez, 47, is on trial in Waco’s 19th State District Court on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a young child and one count of indecency with a child by contact. Prosecutors allege he sexually abused Santos, his former stepdaughter, for almost five years beginning when she was 8.
Clarisa Santos, 14, took her own life last year just before Gonzalez’s first trial was set to start. Prosecutors Will Hix and Sydney Tuggle played an almost two-hour video of Clarisa’s interview with forensic interviewer Heydi McKinney in January 2016 in which the teen describes how Gonzalez had been sexually abusing her.
Clarisa told McKinney that the abuse stopped for a while after she reported it to her mother. But as time went by, the abuse continued, the girl told McKinney.
Clara Santos testified that she met Gonzalez in 2009 when they were living near Fort Worth. They moved to Waco in 2014. She said she confronted Gonzalez after her daughter first reported the abuse but she did not alert police.
After catching him coming from her daughter’s bedroom four years later, Gonzalez told her he was just checking on the girl and her younger brother. Santos went in to speak to her daughter, and she told her of the continuing abuse, she said. Santos took her to the hospital and reported it to police the next day, she told the jury.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Chris Bullajian, Santos denied that she learned Gonzalez was having an affair in 2015 and also denied that she told him then she knew how to “get rid of him for good.”
Judge Ralph Strother did not allow Bullajian to ask Santos about her new boyfriend, Joshua Steven Mitchell, who FBI agents shot and killed July 25 during a raid at the Robinson residence they shared with Clarisa and her brother. Clarisa shot and killed herself on the grounds of the same residence.
Child Protective Services workers have since placed Santos’ 7-year-old son, Joseph, in foster care.
In other prosecution testimony, Jeff Lewellen, a retired Robinson police lieutenant, testified that he and others searched Gonzalez’s house on Rio Bonito Drive after his arrest and found five penis rings in a bedside table drawer. He said Clarisa told investigators Gonzalez used them while assaulting her.
A Department of Public Safety lab technician said he found DNA from both Gonzalez and Clarisa on at least one of the sexual devices.
Lewellen said he got an arrest warrant for Gonzalez the day after Clarisa made her report because Gonzalez left his home and took two pistols, a shotgun and a rifle with him; Clara was fearful for her family; and he wasn’t sure of Gonzalez’s state of mind.
He said he went to the jail in the next few days to get a DNA sample from him but Gonzalez had already posted bond.
Under questioning from Bullajian, Lewellen denied he “rushed to judgment” by getting the quick arrest warrant and said he had adequate probable cause for the arrest.
Prosecution testimony resumes Thursday morning.
If Gonzalez is convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a young child, he faces a minimum of 25 years up to life without parole.