A Superior Court judge sent a Rio Rico man accused of child sexual molestation back to jail without bond Thursday morning and postponed his trial until at least next week, saying it was clear the man was responsible for an attack on his alleged victim’s mother and the woman’s boyfriend in Nogales, Sonora.
The assault – in which the mother and boyfriend reportedly suffered serious stab wounds to their necks – occurred early Wednesday, the same morning a jury was set to begin hearing evidence against 55-year-old Ruben Bolivar. The girl Bolivar is accused of abusing was not home at the time of the attack, but her mother, who was also expected to testify against him, was.
“This was a very deliberate attempt to intimidate the victim and to intimidate the victim’s mother in this case,” Judge Thomas Fink said during a hearing Thursday that followed an emergency session Wednesday called in response to the attack.
“The timing of the assault can’t be any kind of coincidence (in) that the timing occurred on the first day of trial when the victim was first supposed to come to court to testify to be followed by her mother,” Fink said, adding: “It’s the inescapable conclusion and inference by the court that it was the defendant, Mr. Bolivar, who must have either commanded or directed or solicited and/or aided and abetted the assault.”
Police in Nogales, Sonora reportedly received a report at around 7:25 a.m. Wednesday that two masked men had stabbed two people in the city’s Conjunto Jardín neighborhood. While on route to the scene with an ambulance, officers learned that the victims had been transported to the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in a private vehicle.
Nogales Police Department Officer Amador Vasquez testified Wednesday that he interviewed the mother and boyfriend when they arrived at the port, and again after they were taken to Holy Cross Hospital.
Vasquez said the woman told him that two armed men arrived at her house as she was loading documents into her car before heading to the trial. After dragging her inside, the woman said, the men pistol-whipped and stabbed her and her boyfriend. She said one man appeared to be receiving instructions over a phone and clarifying the alleged victim’s name, though the girl wasn’t home at the time. The boyfriend reportedly told Vasquez that the men said to him: “You’re not going to court.”
Pointing to Vazquez’s testimony, Fink said on Thursday that “it’s clear that (the assailants) may very well have been looking for the victim in this case.”
Fink called Bolivar a “substantial danger” and said that sending him to jail, where his communications can be closely monitored, is the only way to protect the girl and her family. Bolivar had previously been released from custody after posting a $260,000 bond.
Bolivar faces one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, one count of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of sexual abuse and one count of molestation of a child. The sexual conduct charge carries a mandatory life sentence if Bolivar is convicted, while the other counts carry terms of up to 27 years each.
The charges stem from the alleged rape and continued sexual abuse of the victim between 2006 and 2015. According to the girl’s testimony during an August evidentiary hearing, the abuse began when she was 7-8 years old, but progressed to oral sex and eventually sexual intercourse when she entered middle and high school.
Bolivar was arrested on Nov. 19, 2015 after the victim told her mother what had occurred.
Defense alleges drug connection
Jury selection in the trial began Tuesday, and by that afternoon, a panel of 14 people – two of whom will eventually be designated alternates – was selected.
But with the evidentiary stage set to begin Wednesday morning, the jurors were kept out of the courtroom as the judge and lawyers convened an emergency hearing in regard to the attack earlier that day.
During a follow-up session Wednesday afternoon, Vanessa Cartwright, the deputy county attorney leading the prosecution of Bolivar, told the judge that the stabbings were “obviously related to today’s court proceedings.”
“To suggest that it could be related to anything else seems somewhat ridiculous,” she said, citing the comments the armed men made about court and the alleged victim.
Cartwright also pointed to testimony by NPD Officer Jesus Gomez, who described the mother’s account of another threat she received in December. The prosecutor noted that Bolivar was in Mexico at that time after receiving permission to take a vacation in the country.
Gomez testified that the mother said her boyfriend went to the door of their Nogales, Sonora house on Dec. 4 and was greeted by an unknown man. The man told the boyfriend that he needed to speak to the mother and drop off paperwork related to a house she owned. The man allegedly made a death threat towards the mother and said “the boss sent him.”
Matthew McGuire, Bolivar’s lawyer, questioned why the woman was still living in Nogales, Sonora after allegedly being threatened in December.
“(She) makes really bad residential life choices,” he said.
McGuire argued that Wednesday’s attack was related to drug-dealing, not the court case against Bolivar. He pointed to Vasquez’s testimony that the mother said she was told to watch as her boyfriend was attacked, that one of the gunmen acted like he was on drugs, and that the men asked the couple for money before leaving.
“If they’re going to kill somebody, they’re not going to ask for money of the people they attack, it makes no sense at all,” McGuire said. “It does make sense that it was a drug ripoff ... or robbery.
“They were going after (the boyfriend),” he asserted, noting that the boyfriend, who has nothing to do with the trial, was attacked first.
McGuire, who said the boyfriend is “incredibly tattooed,” asked Vasquez if he suspects or has evidence that the man has a criminal affiliation or is involved in drug trade. Vasquez said no.
He also noted that the mother was not set to testify the day she was attacked, since her daughter’s testimony was expected to take more than a day.
“That (argument) works on TV, but it doesn’t work here,” he said.
He couldn’t sway the judge, however, and Bolivar was handcuffed in the courtroom and led off to jail.
Fink said he ordered the jury to return to the courthouse next Tuesday morning.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the mother and boyfriend were being treated in a Tucson hospital, Cartwright said. The boyfriend was immediately flown there from Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales due to the seriousness of his injures, and the girlfriend was later taken by ambulance to Tucson after doctors suspected she might be suffering internal bleeding.