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DNA Is Key to ‘Arroyo Molester’ Trial

Genaro Sandoval, center, appeared in court Thursday for his trial on charges he molested an 11-year-old boy in an arroyo. With him are his attorneys Joseph Riggs and Natalie Bruce. (PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL)
Genaro Sandoval, center, appeared in court Thursday for his trial on charges he molested an 11-year-old boy in an arroyo. With him are his attorneys Joseph Riggs and Natalie Bruce. (PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL)
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The accused “arroyo molester,” a former Gallup paramedic charged with assaulting half a dozen boys in Albuquerque, is on trial this week in a decade-old case that was once closed but resurrected because of DNA evidence.

Prosecutors say an investigation used DNA to link 39-year-old Genaro Sandoval in 2007 to the 2003 rape of an 11-year-old who was assaulted in an Albuquerque arroyo while walking home from middle school.

The defense says that, although the attack of the boy is not in doubt, the identification of the suspect is.

Sandoval has been in jail since his 2007 arrest after his bail was set at $1 million.

He is also accused of molesting five other boys in four separate incidents – which occurred Aug. 31, Oct. 5 and Nov. 9, 2005, and between Sept. 9 and Nov. 8, 2005. The case at the heart of the current trial, which is the only one with DNA evidence, has been separated from the other cases.

The attacks horrified parents and prompted Albuquerque Public Schools police and APD to increase patrols around the Embudo Arroyo in the Northeast Heights and other areas where it was believed the suspect might have struck.

The 11-year-old’s encounter on Aug. 27, 2003, took place at the arroyo near Comanche and Juan Tabo while he was walking home from Hoover Middle School. He was approached by a man in a hoodie, who began talking to him and asking him to spray-paint “Matt sucks” under the bridge.

The boy resisted initially but eventually relented, going down into the arroyo where the man, who had a black backpack, asked him to moon the camera.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa Trabaudo said the assailant raped the boy, showing him a gun, then telling him not to call police and to count to 500 before leaving.

The man said he had recorded the incident on his video camera and would show it to the boy’s friends if the boy told anyone, court documents say.

The boy counted to 50, ran to his house, jumped the wall and told his brother and sister what happened. They called their father, and police were brought in. The boy was taken to the hospital for an exam and to a safe house interview. Albuquerque police began conducting interviews and assessing the scene.

Trabaudo said an out-of-state testing firm conducted tests on semen found at the scene that were matched in 2007 to Sandoval.

Defense attorney Joseph Riggs told jurors there was an eyewitness to the event – a term Trabaudo objected to, though she had said someone had happened by in the arroyo but didn’t see everything that happened.

The case had been closed without any charges, he said.

“The case was closed … because what (the victim) said was inconsistent with what the witness said and what the evidence showed,” Riggs said. “This trial isn’t going to be about what happened to (the victim) – I don’t think there’s any question – but whether Genaro Sandoval should be charged.”

The DNA evidence, Riggs said, should support other evidence like shoeprints or fingerprints – which is notably absent.

The trial that began this week before District Judge Kenneth Martinez is expected to extend well into next week and probably beyond and will involve numerous witnesses to explain DNA testing.

The case has been bogged down due to its complicated nature, the number of victims, questions about whether the cases should be tried together and Sandoval’s scheduled plea that he ended up turning down.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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