Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Two New Mexico parents already embroiled in high-profile child abuse cases are facing new allegations that they allowed their 8-year-old son to be molested by two men, according to court documents.
James Stewart and Teri Sanchez first made headlines in May 2018 when the Attorney General’s Office first accused Stewart of prostituting his then-7-year-old daughter in exchange for “weed and pipes and other stuff.” Stewart is facing charges including human trafficking, child abuse, criminal sexual contact and promoting prostitution. Sanchez was accused of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
School personnel reported that the family was homeless and the girl routinely went to school unkempt, hungry and sleep deprived and a teacher went to police after the child changed into clean clothes and she noticed bloodstains in the girl’s underwear.
Several months after the initial case was launched, Stewart faced a second set of charges, this time for using his children’s panhandling proceeds to buy drugs, according to court documents. Days after those charges were filed, Stewart’s trial in the first case came to an abrupt end after the prosecutor in the case elicited prohibited testimony from a state’s witness. That case is on appeal on issues related to the mistrial.
Sanchez’s case was also appealed, but it is back in District Court now, and her lawyer recently raised competency concerns. Documents related to that request are sealed. At a pretrial detention hearing last year, a social worker for the Law Office of the Public Defender testified that Sanchez told her she has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and has an intellectual disability.
The couple’s cases had been quiet for months, but they resurfaced Sept. 12, when the two were indicted on the latest charges involving their son: two counts of criminal sexual contact of a child under the age of 13.
According to a motion seeking pretrial detention, Sanchez and Stewart’s son recently told multiple people about the alleged abuse, which he says occurred in an Albuquerque hotel room between August 2017 and April 2018.
Prosecutors say the couple gave “two grown men the unrestricted, unchecked access to their young son by giving these men a hotel key card, an unoccupied hotel room, and a limited amount of time with their son, which the parents controlled.” The motion alleges the men inappropriately touched the boy, and his parents told him to “deal with it.”
“As the defendants have previously used their children to panhandle for money to feed their drug habits, it is logically presumed that defendants similarly utilized (the boy) as a similar money-making opportunity,” prosecutors with the AG’s Office wrote. “(The child), of course, cannot know whether his parents chose to exchange him for drugs or drug money.”
Both Sanchez and Stewart were in court briefly Monday morning for a detention hearing. Stewart’s hearing was rescheduled after his lawyer asked that the case be assigned to another judge, and Sanchez’s attorney did not oppose the motion to detain her until trial. Both Sanchez and Stewart are already being detained in the original case.
Their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment on the latest charges.