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The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office is highlighting the work carried out by staff at the Children’s Alliance of South Texas as critical in helping to secure grand jury indictments during August against two men accused of sexual assault.
In an interview Monday, Aug. 31, La Salle County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Homar Olivarez said he and Sgt. Investigator Esmeralda Gonzalez worked closely with the Cotulla office of the regional organization in obtaining vital evidence in the cases that resulted in felony charges being filed against the suspects.
The Children’s Alliance of South Texas is based in Floresville and operates an advocacy office near the La Salle County Courthouse in downtown Cotulla and another in Jourdanton. Staff are trained in meeting with juvenile victims of abuse and neglect and are able to conduct forensic interviews related to incidents in which sexual abuse may have occurred, Olivarez said.
“They are trained to interview children in a manner that is accepted by the legal system,” the investigator said, “and this was very important to us in these two recent cases.” He added that the centers also provide counseling for victims up to the age of 18.
The La Salle grand jury has indicted 41-year-old Jesus Orlando Ortiz on a second-degree felony charge of sexual assault after he allegedly forced himself upon a female with whom he was acquainted. The victim is listed by the sheriff’s office as being “considerably younger than the suspect” and had been visiting Ortiz’ home when he allegedly assaulted her in May 2019.
“The victim in the case reported the sexual assault the following day,” Olivarez said, “by calling law enforcement and notifying us that Ortiz had committed a sex crime.”
Ortiz was taken into custody on an arrest warrant after the grand jury indictment and remained behind bars at the La Salle County Jail on Monday, Aug. 31, in lieu of a $25,000 bond.
The sheriff’s office expects to arrest a second suspect this week after the grand jury indictments were handed down, having identified Jorge Luis Sanchez, 53, as the man responsible for the first-degree felony sexual assault of a local child. Sanchez was recently arrested in Fayette County in East Texas on a drug possession charge after he and his female companion, 45-year-old Stephanie Navejar, were subjected to a traffic stop and found in possession of 350 lbs. of marijuana. Investigators have reported that bundles of the contraband had been wrapped in cellophane and concealed in the tank of a sewage pumping truck.
Investigators Olivarez and Gonzalez presented evidence to the grand jury on Aug. 14 supporting their charge that Sanchez took advantage of a girl who was known to him through a family connection and forced himself upon her when she was under the age of 14 in February this year.
“The age of the child at the time of this incident enhances this offense to an aggravated sexual assault,” Olivarez said of the crime. “The victim reported the offense in an outcry to family members immediately after it happened.”
In each case and in others currently under investigation by the sheriff’s office, Olivarez said the work of the staff at the Children’s Alliance helped not only to secure an indictment but helped begin a healing process for the victims through counseling and other support.
“There is an old expression, ‘If you see something, say something,’ and we know today that the same applies to incidents of abuse and neglect,” Olivarez said. “If you learn of something, or if you hear something, say something. It is important to report crimes of abuse, and crimes of assault such as these, and to encourage other people to report abuse. This is how we conquer the abusers. This is how we make sure they don’t do it again and that other people don’t become victims in the future.”
Prosecutors are recommending that Sanchez be held in lieu of a $50,000 surety bond.