Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
A longtime foster parent accused of sexually abusing six children under his care over a six-year period has been indicted on 13 felony charges, according to court documents.
Clarence Garcia, who was indicted Jan. 4, remains out of custody after a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday was pushed back until next month.
Garcia was at the center of an investigation by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department last year after the agency discovered girls were being placed with Garcia, even though he had repeatedly been accused of sexual abuse and misconduct spanning nearly two decades.
The Jan. 4 indictment deals with incidents involving six alleged victims from 2012 to 2018. It alleges four of the girls were under 13 at the time of the abuse and two were 13 to 18 years old. He is charged with multiple counts of rape and criminal sexual contact of a minor.
Prosecutors have filed a motion asking a judge to detain the 60-year-old Garcia until his trial, but a hearing Tuesday on that request was rescheduled for early next month to allow the defense more time to review the extensive evidence in the case.
“The defendant has shown (he is) a danger by repeatedly sexually abusing some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” prosecutor Rebekah Reyes wrote in a motion for pretrial detention. “The defendant was being ‘supervised’ by CYFD and continued to be allowed to care for young children. Despite supervision, the defendant repeatedly engaged in sexually abusive conduct against minors.”
According to his conditions of release, Garcia cannot have contact with minors and cannot discuss the case with his wife, who is a witness.
The CYFD investigation eventually led the agency to revoke the license of Familyworks Inc., a not-for-profit that placed high-risk children into specialized foster homes. According to a search warrant, Garcia and his wife had contracted with the company to provide care since 1997.
The July search warrant filed in 2nd Judicial District Court pointed out that there had been claims of sexual abuse involving several children, ages 6 to 16, who had been placed in his home by Familyworks. Investigators said CYFD noted “consistent separate disclosures of food being used as a coercive tool from Clarence against the girls so he would be allowed to molest and penetrate them.”
But Christopher Dodd, who is representing Garcia, said Tuesday that his client is an innocent, law-abiding man and that some of the children involved in the case made disclosures only after repeated contacts from law enforcement.
“Having looked at the police reports thus far, it looks like many of the accusers initially made statements that there was no sexual contact,” Dodd said. “And we are very concerned about that fact.”
Dodd said one report he received indicates an accuser recanted and told police that she lied because she was upset because she wasn’t given her allowance.
Garcia, along with Familyworks and CYFD, is named in a civil suit filed by the mother of a foster child who says she was raped repeatedly for more than a year while in his custody.
Dodd said he also finds the lawsuit concerning.
“Before any charges are brought against my client, the state gets sued,” Dodd said. “And I think that raises a lot of questions for me.”
Several allegations had been reported to CYFD, but a preliminary review by the department found its workers had followed policies and procedures in their prior investigations. Then-CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson has said department officials were waiting until the criminal case is completed before doing a more thorough critical review.
However, the lawsuit alleges negligence by both CYFD and Familyworks for failing to prevent or stop the abuse, as well as assault and battery by Garcia.
“CYFD seems to be outsourcing its responsibility to the detriment of kids,” said attorney Kate Ferlic, who filed the lawsuit. “I think that they have a moral imperative to participate in the selection and certification of foster parents and take seriously complaints of sexual abuse.”
Journal reporter Elise Kaplan contributed to this report.