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Judge denies new trial in child torture case
VICTORVILLE • A Victorville judge on Friday denied motions for a new trial by two men convicted of torturing and abusing a 5-year-old boy.
Martin Roland Morales, 36, and Juan Carlos Santos-Herrera, 23, had fought for six months to get a new trial. Instead, Judge John Tomberlin ordered them to return to court March 1 for sentencing.
Morales faces up to 78 years to life in prison, while Santos-Herrera could get up to 32 years to life, according to San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney David Foy.
In August 2009, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies responded to an anonymous call and rescued a 5-year-old boy from a closet in a house in the 21000 block of Pah-ute Road in Apple Valley. The boy had bruises, burns and lacerations. He had been deprived of water and food.
The boy, referred to as Johnny in the trial to protect his identity, was living in the house with his mother and Morales along with a few other adults and eight other children.
Johnny testified he was sometimes fed only dead flies, forced to sleep standing up in the corner of the living room and frequently beaten with a belt when he was disobedient. He said Morales and Santos-Herrera would hang him in the garage and abuse him whenever Santos-Herrera would visit.
Morales was convicted in June of torturing and abusing Johnny and another boy who was 12 at the time. He was also found guilty of sexually abusing Johnny.
The same jury found Santos-Herrera guilty of torturing and sexually abusing Johnny. Crystal Rodriguez, 36, was convicted of endangering the older boy.
Unable to recollect specific details, the victim referred to Morales and Santos-Herrera using their nicknames, and at times offered conflicting statements. A detective testified during the trial that such behavior is a condition known as child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome.
“When children are sexually abused over a long period of time, they often recant their statements out of fear, shame,” Foy said.
Stuart O’Melveny, Santos-Herrera’s lawyer, argued Friday that the detective’s testimony shouldn’t have been allowed into the trial because the syndrome applies only to caretakers. Santos-Herrera was just a guest at the house, the defense claimed.
Rodriguez, who faces up to six years in prison, told the court Friday she also wanted to file a motion for a new trial. She was also ordered to return to court for sentencing on March 1.
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