Abuse suspect to remain free before trial - Albuquerque Journal

Abuse suspect to remain free before trial

A former foster parent accused of sexually abusing multiple young girls under his care will remain out of custody as he awaits what could be several trials.

Clarence Garcia
Clarence Garcia

Clarence Garcia, 65, is facing 13 felony charges tied to incidents that took place over a span of six years and involved six children, according to court documents.

State District Court Judge Jacqueline Flores pointed to Garcia’s numerous health issues along with the fact that he no longer had access to foster children as she announced her decision. Garcia must wear a GPS monitor and is prohibited from having contact with children, according to his conditions of release.

Flores’ decision came at the end of a lengthy hearing Thursday that included testimony from the lead detective on the case. He acknowledged that there is no physical evidence in the case and that the state would likely rely on victims’ testimony at trial.

Garcia’s lawyer Christopher Dodd emphasized the lack of physical evidence as he asked Flores to keep his client, who has no criminal record, out of jail. At least one of the victims, he said, had a history of making false allegations, and he was concerned as to why so many accusers had only recently disclosed abuse.

“I just don’t think that the weight of the evidence here really shows that he is a danger,” he said.

Prosecutor Rebekah Reyes said that the case is centered on a systemic failure to protect some of the most vulnerable children in the foster care system.

“These are kids with problems, there’s no disputing that,” Reyes said. “That’s what makes them perfect victims. When kids like this are abused, nobody believes them.”

Reyes asked that Garcia be detained because there was no way to guarantee that he would not have contact with children. But Flores said evidence presented in the hearing showed the alleged victims in this case were all foster children, and Garcia no longer has access to foster children.

Garcia was at the center of a Children Youth and Families Department investigation that found children were being placed with him even though he had faced abuse and misconduct allegations dating back nearly 20 years. The investigation led the agency to revoke the license of Familyworks Inc., a nonprofit that placed high-risk children into specialized foster homes, including Garcia’s.

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