A Central Point man ended a planned three-day trial by pleading no contest to child sex abuse charges at the beginning of the second day.
Juan Antonio Salazar, 28, pleaded no contest before Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia Tuesday to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse for molesting a 6-year-old girl in 2010, said David Orr, deputy district attorney. A no-contest plea, while not an admission of guilt, carries the same consequences in court as a guilty plea. (Correction: See below.)
Did you know: One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
What you can do:
Stay alert: Don't expect obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused. Signs often are there but you have to look for spot them.
Make a plan: Learn where to go, who to call and how to react. Don't overreact. Offer support. Call Child Protective Services or law enforcement.
Act on suspicions: By acting on suspicions of child sexual abuse, you may save not only one child, but perhaps countless others.
Get involved: Volunteer and financially support organizations that fight child sexual abuse.
— Source: Darkness to Light. For more information, visit darkness2light.org
The Jackson County Child Abuse Network, a coalition of local agencies led by United Way, is dedicated to raising community awareness about child abuse and preventing future tragedies. Call the network at 541-773-5339 to find out how you can help. If you suspect a child is being abused, call the Jackson County Child Welfare Office at 866-840-2741.
Above all, don't turn away.
Salazar is facing five years in prison for the crimes. And he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Orr said.
The victim and her mother had testified Monday, Orr said. Jurors also had seen a video of the child detailing the molestation while being interviewed by counselors and detectives at the Children's Advocacy Center.
"You could see the truth," Orr said. "Her answers were so spontaneous."
Salazar, a former boyfriend of the victim's mother, had molested the child during overnight visits, he said. The victim did not discuss his abuse with her mother. But she eventually disclosed the situation to friends at school. One of the friends, who had also been sexually molested, told her foster mother, who in turn notified authorities. The Department of Human Services then alerted Central Point police detectives, Orr said.
Orr said child victims often resist talking about their abuse until they feel safe. That this victim's friend had also suffered abuse helped her "not feel judged," Orr said.
The child initially denied the abuse when questioned by police. But she starting crying when her mother was called and ultimately told the entire story to authorities, he said.
"She disclosed the whole thing," Orr said, adding Salazar molested the child while she was in bed trying to sleep.
Prior to Tuesday's plea agreement, Salazar had denied abusing the child. He also said he couldn't remember all the details due to his drug use, Orr said.
Salazar initially was arrested on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of first-degree sodomy. He agreed to, then opted out of, a previous plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Orr said.
Salazar was facing six counts of first-degree sodomy charges when his jury trial began Monday afternoon. If found guilty, Salazar would have had to serve a 25-year sentence under Jessica's Law provisions which relates to the severity of the offenses and the victim's age, Orr said.
Salazar might get a maximum of 20 percent sentence reduction provided he exhibits good behavior while in prison, Orr said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: The plea Salazar entered has been updated throughout this story.