Crime

Atwater man faces molesting charges

Atwater police say they're conducting more interviews in the case of an Atwater recreation league softball coach accused of child molestation.

Police want to determine whether there are more victims.

Defendant Henry Esparza Jr., 41, was arrested last week after his wife told officers he had been molesting a 14-year-old girl for the past several years.

Atwater police spokesman Armando Echevarria said Monday that "there have been several interviews with other individuals" to find out if there could be additional victims in the case.

After the interviews are complete, Echevarria said, the Merced County District Attorney's Office will determine whether Esparza will face additional charges.

Echevarria didn't say how many people were being interviewed.

Esparza pleaded not guilty to four felony molestation charges during a video conference arraignment in Merced County Superior Court on Monday.

"These are only charges. It's not evidence," Kirk McAllister, Esparza's Modesto-based defense attorney, said about the gravity of the charges facing his client.

Judge Glenn Ritchey set the preliminary hearing in the case for July 14.

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