Statements from a Robinson teenager who killed herself last year on the eve of her testimony against her former stepfather will be admissible at his upcoming trial on charges he sexually abused her for five years, a judge ruled Friday.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court granted a state motion that forfeits Jose Manuel Gonzalez’s right to object to the admissibility of the evidence based on the unavailability of the witness because he “engaged in a course of action directed toward Clarisa Santos designed and intended to control, threaten and manipulate” her from reporting his actions.
Santos, a 14-year-old Harmony Science Academy student, took her own life May 6, 2018, the day after she received a subpoena from the state to testify at Gonzalez’s trial on continuous sexual abuse of a young child and indecency with a child charges, her mother, Clara Santos told the Tribune-Herald last year.
Gonzalez’s trial was postponed and is now set for Aug. 20 in Strother’s court. Gonzalez’s attorney, Chris Bullajian, declined comment Friday after Strother’s ruling.
Santos died in Robinson at the same location in which the FBI shot and killed her mother’s boyfriend, Joshua Steven Mitchell, who also went by the name Gio Michell.
Mitchell, 44, was killed after FBI officials said he threatened them as they arrived early in the morning of July 25 to serve an unspecified warrant, which remains sealed by federal authorities.
The Tribune-Herald does not routinely identify the alleged victims of sexual abuse without their permission or report on most suicides. However, Santos’ mother, Clara Santos, and Mitchell said last year that they wanted her story told and planned to create a foundation called One More Day with the goal of suicide prevention.
Strother also revoked Gonzalez’s $250,000 bond, ruling it was insufficient after deeming him a flight risk and declaring he engaged in a course of action that caused Santos to be unavailable to testify against him.
In a motion filed by prosecutor Sydney Tuggle, the state alleges Gonzalez’s behavior worked to prevent Clarisa from reporting the sexual abuse and “culminated just prior to the previous trial setting in this cause when Clarisa Santos took her own life.”
Clara Santos told the Tribune-Herald last year that she bought a gun to protect her and her daughter after Clarisa thought she saw Gonzalez lurking near their home on Stegall Drive in Robinson.