Tag: child abuse

Man convicted of sexually abusing girl sentenced to 60 years

A Jefferson Parish judge sentenced Rafael Chinchilla to 60 years in prison Thursday (Sept. 12), for his conviction of sexually abusing a child.

Chinchilla, 33, a native of Honduras, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 30 of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13, indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13 and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

The abuse began when the victim was 11 years old and continued until she was 13. The crimes occurred in Metairie and Kenner, during which Chinchilla sent her text messages both professing his love for her and threatening her. Police were notified in February 2017, after the victim’s father searched her mobile device and found evidence of the abuse, including audio of the victim telling Chinchilla to stop.

After hearing impact testimony from the victim and her father, Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Chinchilla to 60 years for the sexual battery, 20 years for the indecent behavior of a juvenile under age 13 and seven years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile. The sentences were run concurrently.

Judge Adams also ordered that, should Chinchilla be released from prison, he be electronically monitored and register as a sex offender for life.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Clauss and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Twyena Thomas guilty of murdering her 28-month-old son

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Aug. 22) found Twyena Thomas guilty of causing her 28-month-old son’s death through blunt-force trauma injuries to the child’s head.

Thomas, 29, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Chase Thomas in the Kenner apartment he shared with his mother and three siblings. He stopped breathing on Sept. 30, 2017. His severely emaciated body weighed a mere 15 pounds.

Although Chase was malnourished and dehydrated, his death was caused by blunt-force trauma to the head. According to an expert in pediatric child abuse, Chase was the victim of “child torture,” which includes psychological, emotional and physical abuse and starvation.

The jury, which was seated Tuesday, deliberated just over a half-hour. Judge Danyelle Taylor of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Thomas on Sept. 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Whitworth and Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.

Week roundup: New Orleans man pleads to narcotics offense during trial, Honduran man convicted of molesting child

Two Jefferson Parish juries were seated this week for two unrelated trials, with one returning a guilty verdict against a man accused of sexually abusing a child and the other never getting to deliberate because the defendant pleaded guilty as charged.

Louisiana vs. Tyran Jones

Tyran Jones, 26, of New Orleans, received a 20-year prison sentence Wednesday night after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute heroin and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and resisting an officer.

The state presented nine witnesses to jurors and was resting its case when Jones pleaded guilty as charged.

On Jan. 23, 2018, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics agents arrested Jones on Jefferson Highway near Causeway Boulevard after observing him engaged in a drug transaction, according to trial testimony.

The agents found marijuana on his person and in his car, along with a loaded pistol in his vehicle. After transporting Jones following his arrest, deputies found cocaine and heroin where he was seated in the police unit, according to trial testimony.

Jurors were shown evidence from his cell phone that proved he was engaged in illegal narcotics sales and that he possessed the firearm. He was barred from possessing guns because of previous robbery and narcotics convictions in New Orleans.

After Jones admitted his guilt, Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Jones to 20 years for the firearm charge, 15 years for the cocaine charge on a double bill and 20 years for the heroin charge. Judge Faulkner also sentenced Jones to six months resisting an officer and 15 days for the marijuana offense. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Laura Schneidau prosecuted the case.

Louisiana vs. Edin Melgar

On Thursday night, a jury deliberated about 15 minutes before convicting Edin Melgar, 38, a native of Honduras who lived in Metairie, as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Both offenses involved a child who was between the ages of nine and 11 when the abuse ended in September 2018. The child, her mother and their pastor reported the abuse to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 28, 2018, leading to Melgar’s arrest. According to trial testimony, the child disclosed that Melgar threatened to harm her if she told anyone.

Jurors heard that at the time of his arrest, Melgar was wanted in South Carolina on charges of raping a child in that state in 2009. That victim testified Thursday.

Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Melgar on Aug. 19.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

Terrytown man convicted of molesting 6-year-old girl

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday (April 24) found Ronnie Lim guilty of sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl in 2012.

Lim, 26, of Terrytown, was found guilty as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13.

The jury deliberated about 30 minutes in reaching its verdict. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lim on May 9.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Meredith Hearn prosecuted the case.

Ex-gymnastics coach pleads guilty to molesting boys, sentenced to 65 years in prison

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (April 15) sentenced former gymnastics coach Jonathan M. West of Kenner to 65 years in prison, after West admitted he sexually exploited 13 boys under his care.

West, 27, pleaded guilty as charged to the offenses outlined in a 24-count bill of information. The victims were between the ages of eight and 15 when the abuse happened, beginning in 2015 and ending with his arrest on May 31, 2018, according to the bill of information.

West pleaded to:

  • Nine counts of indecent behavior with juveniles;
  • One count of indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • Eight counts of sexual battery;
  • Two counts of oral sexual battery;
  • Three counts of sexual battery of a child under age 13; and,
  • One count of computer solicitation of a minor under age 13.

West’s sentences were:

  • 65 years for each of the sexual battery of juveniles under age 13;
  • 25 years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • 20 years for the computer solicitation of a minor under age 13;
  • 10 years for each of the sexual battery counts;
  • 10 years for each of the oral sexual battery counts; and,
  • Seven years for each of the indecent behavior with juvenile counts.

Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court ran the sentences concurrently, for a total of 65 years.

Judge Enright also ordered that West be electronically monitored and to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, should he ever be released from prison. The judge additionally ordered that any of West’s electronics equipment used in the computer solicitation offense be seized and auctioned.

The judge heard impact statements from nine people, including six mothers of the victims who knew West as “Jonny.”

West worked as a gymnastics and cheerleading coach at businesses in Metairie, Kenner and St. Charles Parish. In some cases, he molested the victims while driving them to the gyms. In some cases, West told the victims that his actions would make them better at gymnastics.

Following West’s arrest, which was publicized in local news reports, more victims came forward, telling police they too were abused.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Zachary Popovich prosecuted the case.

Man sentenced to life in prison for raping, impregnating 12-year-old girl

Days after he was convicted by a jury, Jose Ivan Moreno Cervantes was sentenced Monday (May 7) to a mandatory life sentence in prison for raping and impregnating a 12-year-old girl in West Jefferson.

Cervantes, 36, was convicted as charged last week of the first-degree rape of a child whose pregnancy went undiagnosed into its eighth month, when a school official raised question.

The child then told authorities that Cervantes raped her three times, according to evidence presented during the trial.

Noting the victim’s bravery for testify against Cervantes, Judge John Molaison of the 24th Judicial District Court said during the sentencing hearing that adults are charged with caring and supporting children.

“It’s our obligation to protect them, and you did just the opposite,” Judge Molaison told Cervantes. “You preyed upon a child for your own sexual gratification.”

The victim gave birth in September 2015. DNA testing confirmed that Cervantes is the father. After he was booked, his family had the child sign an affidavit swearing that she impregnated herself with one of Cervantes’ used condoms. The victim willingly signed it only so that her son would have a father in his life.

Cervantes must serve life in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Blair Constant prosecuted the case.

Man convicted of raping, impregnating 12-year-old girl

A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday (May 1) found a man guilty of raping and impregnating a 12-year-old girl in West Jefferson, rejecting the defendant’s assertion that the victim used his discarded condom to cause the pregnancy.

Jose Ivan Moreno Cervantes, 36, who at the time of his arrest resided in Denham Springs, was convicted as charged of first-degree rape of a juvenile under age 13, a crime that carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.

Cervantes raped the girl three times, twice in Westwego and once in his car in Marrero, according to evidence presented during the two-day trial. School officials suspected in late August 2015 that the child was pregnant, a suspicion the mother initially rejected.

However, that same day, a pediatrician confirmed that the victim was 8 ½ months pregnant. She then told authorities that she had been raped by Cervantes, who by this point had vanished from Jefferson Parish. The victim was 12 years old when she gave birth in September 2015.

Police obtained a warrant for Cervantes’ arrest, and a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force apprehended him in July 2016, when the newborn was nine months old, according to evidence presented during the trial.

DNA testing established that Cervantes is the father. Prior to trial, the victim and her mother signed an affidavit at the behest of Cervantes’ family, asserting that the child obtained one of his used condoms and impregnated herself. She later refuted the assertions spelled out in the affidavit, saying she signed it in hopes her child would have a father.

The jury deliberated less than a half-hour in convicting Cervantes. Judge John Molaison of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Cervantes on Monday (May 7).

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Blair Constant prosecuted the case.

 

 

Gretna couple sentenced to decades in prison for molesting three girls

A Gretna couple convicted last month of sexually abusing three juvenile girls has been sentenced to prison.

Elvin Villafranca, 40, and Argentina Mesa, 54, were sentenced Monday (April 16) to 60 years and 35 years, respectively, for their March 20 convictions of abusing the girls in their Newton Street home in 2013 and 2014.

The Gretna Police Department investigation began in November 2014, after detectives learned that a 7-year-old girl was molested while being babysat at the couple’s home. For this victim, Villafranca was convicted of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and received a 25-year prison sentence.

The victim’s mother later asked a relative whether she had contact with Mesa and Villafranca. That victim disclosed she was sexually abused by the couple at age 13, after the couple gave her alcohol to drink during a sleepover, according to evidence presented at trial.

In connection with this second victim, Villafranca was convicted of attempted forcible rape and was sentenced to 10 years, and Mesa was convicted of sexual battery and was sentenced to 10 years.

A third victim came forward saying she, too, was sexually abused at the Newton Street residence when she was 9 years old. For this, Villafranca and Mesa were convicted of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and received a 25-year sentences.

After hearing impact testimony from the mothers of two of the victims and denying post-verdict motions, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentences. He ran them consecutively, citing the fact that the crimes involved three separate victims and that anything less would deprecate the seriousness of the crimes.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Gretna couple convicted of sexually abusing three juvenile girls

A Gretna couple was convicted Tuesday night (March 20) of molesting three juvenile girls, including a teenager who was given alcohol before she was sexually abused while in a drunken state.

Both Elvin Villafranca, 40, and Argentina Mesa, 54, were convicted of sexual battery counts for the crimes that occurred at their home in 2013 and 2014. Additionally, Villafranca was convicted of the attempted forcible rape of a 13-year-old girl, a responsive verdict, and Mesa was acquitted of being a principal to forcible rape involving the same victim.

“These are three victims, essentially three cases crammed into one case because of a common denominator: Mesa and Villafranca,” Assistant District Attorney Laura Schneidau, who prosecuted with Emily Booth, told jurors in closing argument.

The Gretna Police Department began its investigation in November 2014, after it learned that a 7-year-old girl was molested while being babysat at a Newton Street residence, according to evidence presented during the trial.

That victim’s mother initiated the investigation after seeing a matter of sexual nature on the child’s electronic tablet. Investigators learned that Villafranca inappropriately touched the victim, leading to his conviction of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13.

The mother of that victim later encountered a juvenile relative, who also had contact with Mesa and Villafranca, leading to the child’s disclosure that in November 2013, when she was 13 years old, she had been sexually abused at the couple’s Newton Street residence.

That second victim asserted that, during a sleepover, she was given alcohol and was not allowed to leave. For that victim, Villafranca was convicted of attempted forcible rape, and Mesa was convicted of sexual battery.

Another victim disclosed that she, too, was abused at the couple’s Newton Street residence when she was 9 years old. For this, Villafranca and Mesa were convicted as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 for this offense.

After a six-day trial, the jury deliberated almost six hours Tuesday before returning its verdicts. Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Mesa and Villafranca on April 16.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Metairie man sentenced to life in prison for raping boy

A Metairie man who was convicted of raping a young boy was sentenced Monday (Dec. 11) to a life sentence in prison.

Charles Turner, 38, was convicted as charged on Nov. 8, of the aggravated rape of the boy, who was abused over a two-year period beginning in 2013, when he was 8 years old.

The victim, who is now a teenager, did not attend the sentencing hearing but wrote a letter to Turner that was read aloud in court. Expressing forgiveness for Turner, the victim noted the prison sentence. “My life sentence ends today as yours begins,” he wrote.

Turner, who has denied sexually abusing the child, said in court he was “not guilty.” After denying defense motions for a new trial and to overturn the jury’s verdict, Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Turner to the mandatory punishment.

Assistant District Attorneys Lynn Schiffman and Andrew DeCoste prosecuted the case.