Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 5:29 am | Fair 39º


Local News

Lompoc Child-Molestation Trial Kicks Off In Santa Maria

Jurors heard opening statements and from the first witness last week in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial of a Lompoc man accused of molesting five girls.

Jesus Buenrostro, 50, was arrested by Lompoc police in August, and originally faced 10 charges related to incidents between 1999 and 2016. 

The jury in Judge John McGregor’s courtroom will decide his fate regarding three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor by force, three counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years, and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor involving oral copulation.

During opening statements on Friday, Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Savrnoch said Buenrostro is accused of molesting five girls, some of whom are now adults, including having vaginal and anal intercourse and oral sex with them. 

The defendant reportedly threatened to harm the three girls and their mother “to get them to do what he wanted them to do,” Savrnoch said.

“And that he also threatened them to keep this silent,” she added. “Keep it a secret and not to tell anyone. And if they were to tell their mother, he told them, ‘Your mother would never believe you, and you will be the one that will get in trouble.’”

The sisters never knew their siblings were being abused, the prosecuting attorney said, adding two first learned about the other's abuse when they went to a relative’s house after a domestic-violence incident. 

“It was at that point the sisters made a decision and that was they were going to report this,” Savrnoch said, adding they went to the police station the next day to report the abuse. 

One alleged victim documented the abuse in a diary that her mother found and kept, Savrnoch added.

But defense attorney Lori Pedego said the evidence will raise doubts about the victims’ allegations.

“They have a history of lying to law enforcement and they have a history of changing their stories,” Pedego said. “These aren’t stories about whether socks were blue or purple. These are stories that go directly to the point of this case.”

She said the allegations arose when the girls were teenagers, but one sister denied being sexually abused by the defendant.

“I’m not as good as the prosecutor, because I can’t keep the stories straight as to what (the three victims) said. They were interviewed multiple times by multiple officers,” Pedego said. 

She urged jurors to pay attention to the testimony, saying the witnesses are “a little shaky” about details.

“It’s telling that every time they’re interviewed, their stories change, not in little degrees but in huge degrees,” Pedego said. “They also were interviewed on the witness stand under oath and their stories there changed again.”

The sisters later allowed their daughters to be in the home with the defendant, Pedego said.

The defense also said a recorded interview conducted by the Sexual Abuse Response Team member would be show jurors the suggestive technique used by interviewers to elicit an allegation.

“I’m so happy we have that interview because it is chillingly telling,” Pedego said

She also added a defense expert will testify about techniques of interviewers use to get information from vulnerable children.

After opening statements, one of the now-adult victims took the stand as the first witness, testifying about the defendant demanding oral sex. 

“It made me really sick to my stomach,” she said.

In pre-trial motions, the attorneys argued about whether a prosecution expert should be allowed to testify about "child abuse accommodation syndrome," which allegedly leads to delayed disclosure, retracted stories and other methods to cope with being abused.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >