Asleep in bed, the 13-year-old girl felt a chill.
She awoke to discover the blankets off of her and her pajamas pants down.
Standing over her was her stepgrandfather who molested her, a prosecutor told a Fresno County Superior Court jury on Wednesday.
In opening statements, prosecutor Amythest “Amy” Freeman told the jury that the molester was Rex Garcia, who spent 31 stellar years in law enforcement, including 10 years as a Fresno police officer and nearly 19 years as a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy and bailiff.
Freeman said video evidence from a secret camera that was set up in the girl’s room caught Garcia in the act.
Rex Garcia, 73, faces a felony charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 years old from August 2009 to August 2015.
But Garcia’s lawyer, Antonio Alvarez, told jurors that the girl made up the story so she and her father could get control of the family’s home. He also said the video evidence doesn’t show Garcia molesting the girl.
Garcia, 73, faces a felony charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 years old from August 2009 to August 2015. He faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted, according to the California Penal Code.
Garcia has pleaded not guilty and is free on $40,000 bail.
Alvarez said Garcia is innocent because it would be out of character for him to molest a child, and the alleged victim has a history of lying. But Freeman told the jury the case is about Garcia betraying his family.
The trial in Judge Jon Conklin’s courtroom is expected to take up to two weeks.
Garcia married his wife Josephine around 2000 and lived with her, her mother, her son and his daughter in a three-bedroom home in Fresno. Because the family was close, the alleged victim affectionately called him “Papa.”
Garcia retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2013 after experiencing heart problems. But his troubles began when the girl’s father told the Fresno Police Department on Aug. 31, 2015, that his daughter related to him how Garcia had molested her.
According to Freeman, the alleged victim told police in late August 2015 that she felt a chill, woke up and saw Garcia standing over her and rubbing her vagina.
“Hi, baby,” Garcia said, according to Freeman.
The next day the girl told her father.
The girl’s father reported the alleged child molestation to the Fresno Police Department on Aug. 31, 2015.
The father, however, was a convicted thief who spent time in prison. He didn’t initially report the crime to police because he feared Garcia had friends in law enforcement who would not believe him, Freeman told the jury.
So he set up a secret camera in his daughter’s room.
Freeman said video evidence shows Garcia going into the girl’s room in the middle of the night over the next few days. In one of the videos, he is seen touching her under her covers, the prosecutor said.
Once police were contacted, the girl said Garcia had been molesting her since she was 7 years old, Freeman said.
But Alvarez told the jury that Garcia could not have molested her when she was in her preteen years because she was sleeping in her great-grandmother’s bedroom, sometimes with her and sometimes on a trundle bed. Alvarez also said it was common for every bedroom in the home to remain open – day and night– so if Garcia was molesting the girl, someone would have seen it happen.
According to Alvarez, Garcia and his wife often stayed up late at night watching television or checking on her granddaughter. “They were hyper-protective of her,” Alvarez said.
In the video, Garcia doesn’t molest the girl, but affectionately pats her her head to say goodnight, Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the girl only remembers Garcia allegedly molesting her once in late August 2015. When the video camera is rolling, she told police she slept through the alleged incidents, Alvarez said.
In addition, Josephine Garcia has seen the videos and isn’t convinced her husband molested her granddaughter, Alvarez told the jury.