Accused child molester’s charges reduced

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A man accused of molesting his own daughter will face the charges in 7th Judicial District Court since the case was bound over from Socorro Magistrate Court on Tuesday.

Ed Soto

Ed Soto, who was initially charged with seven counts of child molestation and has been in custody since he was arrested at the beginning of July, will face five charges in District Court: four counts of criminal sexual contact with a child under 13, and one count of criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13.

Magistrate Judge Jim Naranjo decreased Soto’s cash-only bond from $150,000 to $100,000 since the charges were verbally amended by the state’s attorney following the child’s testimony.

The criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court in June lists five counts of criminal sexual penetration and two counts of criminal sexual contact Soto allegedly committed against the child, who was between the ages of 4 and 6 at the time the molestation reportedly occurred.

Two witnesses gave testimony in the case Tuesday, the child and her mother. Testifying before the judge, the attorneys, the accused, family members and the public in court, the now 9-year-old child did not list all of the instances of abuse she had previously alleged during safe house interviews, which had been described in the criminal complaint.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Cates first called the child’s mother to testify. The mother said her relationship with Soto lasted from about 2002 to 2008, and their daughter was born in 2003. The couple separated in 2008, and the woman moved out of town with her daughter in 2010.

The mother said after the couple separated, they established a three-day rotation for a while so each parent would have the child for three days. She said the child stopped going to Soto in 2009 because the child didn’t want to do the three-day rotation anymore. When asked why, at the time the child told her mother she didn’t like the way her parents argued during the transfer.

“We argued a lot about rotation toward the end,” the mother said. “I told him if he didn’t like it, he could take me to court — but he never did.”

The mother said the child never said anyone else abused her, and never told the mother about Soto until the night before a counseling session in 2012. She explained she had put the little girl into counseling for acting out and for grief over a family member who died. She said the child did not misbehave in school, she was just very emotional.

The mother also testified the child had never been diagnosed with any mental problem, learning disability or medical condition.

Soto’s attorney Katherine Riley then questioned the mother, starting with the night before counseling when the child first indicated abuse had occurred.

The mother said that night, her daughter did not actually come out and specify what happened. The little girl behaved strangely and said she had been hurt. The child then alluded to a catechism handout about inappropriate touching, and told her mother “those are the questions you’re supposed to ask me.”

The mother testified that the next day, she told the school counselor about the child’s strange behavior. The counselor noted the child was scheduled for a counseling session that day, and she advised the mother to have the child attend the session but do nothing further at that time.

The mother said when she went to pick the child up from the counseling session, the Children, Youth and Families Department and New Mexico State Police were there. CYFD and NMSP did not tell the mother what was said during the session, and instructed the mother not to ask the child questions about it. The mother said her daughter did nothing but cry and sleep for days after the counseling session.

The mother said Soto took their daughter on vacation twice after the mother and daughter had moved away from Socorro. She said the court had not awarded Soto visitation rights because he was not able to pass a drug test, but as the mother she was allowed to let Soto visit their child at her discretion.

“I agreed to let her go on vacation because I did not know what was going on,” the mother said.

The mother said both times Soto took the child for vacation she had to call police to get her child back. One time the child was with Soto at a relative’s home in California, and the mother was “not allowed to know the address.”

The state then called the child, who testified Soto’s inappropriate touching started when her mother went out looking for an apartment, which was in 2008 when the parents were breaking up. She said more touching happened during the three-day visits. She said the touching became less frequent when Soto moved in with his new girlfriend in 2009 because the girlfriend was in the home most of the time. However, when the child’s mother decided to move out of town, the child said Soto’s touching became more frequent again.

The child testified she had not talked to friends or relatives about the touching. She also said “no” when asked if anybody had told her to make up a story about Soto.

In closing, Cates said the child testified to what she could remember.

The criminal complaint states two safe house interviews were conducted, and the child disclosed many instances of abuse in both interviews.