Jury finds Lufkin man guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child

Miguel Lopez (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Miguel Lopez (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has found a Lufkin man guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first degree felony, and not guilty of continuous sexual assault of a child. 33-year-old Miguel Ramos Lopez sexually assaulted a then-10-year-old girl.

During the second day of the ongoing trial Lopez took the stand and said he "never did anything."

The jury began deliberating around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, by 7 p.m. that evening they had reached a not guilty verdict for continuous sexual assault of a child and a guilty verdict for aggravated sexual assault of a child. As soon as the verdict was read Lopez burst into tears shaking his head.

Prosecutor Layne Thompson said, "The jury was clear that child had been molested, but what was not clear to them was if the victim was molested three or more times in at least 30 days or more, which is why Lopez was found not guilty of continuous sexual assault of a child, because it is harder to prove."

When the trial got underway Wednesday in Angelina County's 217th Judicial District Court, Lopez pleaded not guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child.

Lopez testified that he had never touched the alleged victim. He said the testimony against him is not true, and none of it ever happened. He told defense attorney Rudy Velasquez that he was never alone with the alleged victim, and her family was always around.

During his testimony, Lopez said he was surprised when the mother of the alleged victim confronted him in April of 2012 about the allegations against him because he "never did anything." He told the jury he is innocent, and that is why he never ran away. Lopez said he had three days to run away and he never did.

Thompson asked Lopez if he was sure he had never been alone with the alleged victim, and Lopez alluded that he had been alone in the living room with her when she would give him back rubs on the couch. He says he believes the alleged victim's aunt put her up to making up a story about the alleged abuse.

Valerie Murphy, a registered emergency room nurse with the Memorial Health Systems testified that she was the sexual assault nurse examiner of the alleged victim. She said she performed a SANE examination on the alleged victim on April 25, 2012. She said the alleged victim was a "well-dressed, well behaved, 10-year-old female who smiled occasionally and while looking down telling me what happened to her, crying occasionally."

Murphy testified she did not find any physical trauma on the alleged victim's body. She said she is not surprised by her findings because it is normal for there to be no physical trauma on a female's body after sexual assault.

The 15-year-old aunt of the alleged victim testified that she thought the alleged victim had been upset because of chores. She said she realized her niece was not upset about chores when she became very emotional. The aunt said the alleged victim was very reluctant to tell her about the abuse.

During closing arguments, Velasquez says he still believes this case is a he said, she said scenario and there is no corroborative evidence. Thompson countered saying "most cases are he said, she said cases. And who is the she here? She is the eyewitness. She is the victim."

Velasquez says he questions the alleged victim's testimony saying that he is confused how the alleged victim would originally be upset about doing chores and then be upset about the alleged abuse.

"It seems to be a very complicated matter to do with all the people around," Velasquez said. "It seems if you are going to do something like this there has to be some sort of privacy. It just doesn't make any sense."

Thompson said it was inappropriate for Lopez to even come into the bathroom while the alleged victim showered. He said there was no reason he needed to pull the shower curtain back.

"He wanted to see her naked. That's inappropriate," Thompson said.

According to an arrest affidavit, the alleged victim, 11, told counselors at Harold's House that Lopez had touched her inappropriately three times in October 2011. The alleged victim also said Lopez would watch her take showers. She said she would lock the bathroom door, but Lopez would find a key, open the door, pull back the shower curtain and watch her shower. Lufkin Police officers arrested Lopez at his place of work in April 2012.

During Wednesday's testimony, the alleged victim testified that Lopez would touch her inappropriately while she gave him back rubs on the couch. She said he would sometimes nibble her neck and pulled her legs around his waist. She said the sexual acts he performed on her made her feel "uncomfortable," and "awkward."

She also said Lopez came into the bathroom one time while she was showering, pulled the shower curtain back and told her she was "wasting shampoo" and to "hurry up." She said she found his behavior "weird."

Thompson said the alleged abuse lasted from December 15, 2011 to March 31, 2012. The alleged victim also told the jury that one night before she went to bed, Lopez told her to give him a hug and moved her hand to the front part of his pants to touch his groin. She said she decided to tell her aunt about the abuse.

The alleged victim's mother said she was surprised and upset when she heard about the abuse.

Sean Alexander, a patrol officer with the Lufkin Police Department, said he was called out to the alleged victim's house in April 2012 because of a disturbance call. He said the alleged victim's mother was fighting with Lopez over the allegations, and was surprised when the alleged victim confronted him and told him about the abuse.

Alexander said that he passed the case on to the criminal investigation unit. Crockett Chief Police Chief David Cross, who formally worked with LPD's criminal investigation unit, said that it was normal for a female victim of sexual assault to withhold information from a parent. He said it was also normal that none of the family members had witnessed the alleged abuse because most times abuse happens when there is no one around.

Thompson said Judge Barry Bryan will sentence Lopez after a pre-sentence investigation which should take place in about 45 days.

In order to protect the alleged victim's identity, specific details have been withheld from this story.

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