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Local News

Man Convicted of Child Molestation, Sodomy and Rape of 2 Girls

Jose Vazquez Prestegui

A Santa Barbara man faces a sentence of up to 135 years to life in prison after being convicted Monday of numerous sex crimes against two young girls.

Jose Vazquez Prestegui, 40, reportedly admitted to police after he was arrested last August that he molested a 5-year-old girl in his home as “payback” for his own history of being molested as a child.

A Santa Barbara jury on Monday returned guilty verdicts on all nine counts filed against Prestegui, according to Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig.

During the trial, the jury heard testimony from the two female victims — who are now 6 and 16 — about the crimes Prestegui committed against them, which included child molestation, sodomy and rape.

The incident involving the younger victim, who was 5 at the time, was reported to have occurred at Prestegui’s home, which he shared with several families. The girl was visiting a friend who lived in the home and had wandered into Prestegui’s living area during a game of hide-and-seek.

The girl began watching television with Prestegui, who allegedly fondled her through her clothing. The victim told her 17-year-old cousin, who alerted adults who were also at the residence.

Prestegui was confronted by one of the adults about the child’s allegation, and the police were called.

Prestegui later admitted to a detective to molesting the girl, stating that it was “like payback” for when he was molested as a child.

Ladinig said that not only did the jury find Prestegui guilty of child molestation of that child, Jane Doe 1, who is now 6, but convicted him of eight other counts with a second victim who was discovered after Prestegui’s arrest.

Jane Doe 2, who is now 16 and lives in New Mexico, recounted to prosecutors how she had been abused by Prestgui, her step-father, between the ages of 4 and 7, and the jury found him guilty of three counts of sodomy, two counts of rape, one count of continuous sexual abuse of minor and child molestation.

Ladinig said that Jane Doe 2’s case popped up when the prosecutor saw there had been a 2005 arrest during which Prestegui had been charged with child molestation in Oxnard, but that the case had been dismissed.

The young woman had recanted after the 2005 arrest, saying that the abuse never happened, Ladinig said, but when interviewed more recently, the young woman admitted that her mother had told her to tell law enforcement it hadn’t happened so Prestegui would be let out of prison.

“We found her mother she had been estranged from since the arrest, who admitted forcing her daughter to lie,” Ladinig said.

The mother went on to testify at the preliminary hearing that she had told her daughter to lie about the abuse.

After interviewing Jane Doe 2 in Sept., Ladinig approached Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten about pursuing those older charges as well as a statute that allows crimes to be charged in two counties.

“Jane Doe 2 is a 16-year-old now and is an incredible young woman that has lived through a harrowing and horrible experience,” Ladinig told Noozhawk Monday, who also lauded the six-year-old girl’s courage to testify in court.

“It’s a great day for the people, that’s for sure,” he said.

Prestegui will be sentenced Aug. 27 in Dept. 2 of Santa Barbara Superior Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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.

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