Jury convicts on two charges in New Castle child sex assault case
A 46-year-old male was convicted Thursday on one count of attempted sexual assault on a child and one count of enticement of a child, following a four-day jury trial in 9th District Court in Glenwood Springs. Both convictions carry a sentence of up to life in prison.
Prosecutors handling the case say Hector Ledezma invited two 9-year-old girls into his New Castle-area home on May 17, 2015, and offered $1,000 to the girls if they could find the money, which he said was hidden in his home.
Sarah Nordgaard, deputy district attorney says Ledezma then separated the girls into different rooms before sexually molesting one of them by touching her breasts and then attempting to sexually assault the other by removing her clothing.
One of the victim’s guardians notified law enforcement, and an investigation commenced within two weeks, Nordgaard said.
Ledezma was arrested in May 2016 and was originally charged with four crimes: sex assault on a child, two counts of enticement of a child, and criminal attempt to commit sex assault on a child, but 14 jury members found him guilty of two of those counts after closing arguments Thursday afternoon.
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Both children were 9 at the time of the incident, and the defendant was 43.
He has remained in the Garfield County Jail on $50,000 bond since his arrest in May 2016.
In court on Thursday, prosecutors showed pictures of the suspect’s home and said the defendant and one of the victims lived across the street from one another at the time of the incident. But it is still unclear if they had interacted previously.
In the courtroom, Ledezma’s attorney asked Judge John Neiley to acquit the two counts of enticement, arguing the two children had entered the home voluntarily. But a prosecutor snapped back, saying the $1,000 “treasure hunt” is what enticed them.
“It might as well be a million dollars,” one prosecutor said. “You’ve seen the condition of this neighborhood. There’s probably not a lot of money in this area.”
The judge denied the motion to dismiss those enticement charges.
Ledezma wore thick-rimmed glasses and a technology piece connected to a Spanish-speaking interpreter in the room and looked on as the jurors heard closing arguments, just hours before they were expected to deliberate.
Ledezma’s counsel focused on what he called discrepancies in the victims’ testimony. He said they were not consistently able to identify where Ledezma had allegedly touched them.
He closed his arguments reminding the jurors that no matter how much the victim’s testimonies “pulled on your heart strings, you cannot allow that to influence your decision.”
Nordgaard opened her closing arguments in rebuttal saying, “This is not a very complicated or technical case. It hinges on whether or not you believe the two victims.”
The enticement of a child conviction can carry a sentence of up to life in prison or up to life on probation, Nordgaard said.
However, if convicted, the suspect’s case is eligible for review, which could mean a possible sentence reduction.
Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. June 14.
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More charges are pending against a 54-year-old Rifle man accused of child sexual assault and a pattern of abuse over several years involving multiple victims.