(Editor's notes: This story contains graphic content and has been updated throughout.)
A Denison man who was originally from El Salvadore showed no emotion Wednesday as State District Court Judge Rayburn Nall Jr. sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors took approximately 30 minutes to convict Jorge Geovany Hernandez of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Hernandez, who has spent a year in the Grayson County Jail on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold, had also been indicted on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child.
An ICE hold means the federal agency tasked with enforcing immigration laws believes that individual to be an undocumented immigrant or that the crime the suspect is accused of is a deportable offense, even if the immigrant is documented.
In a recorded interrogation, Hernandez told Denison Police Detective John Watt the older of the two little girls seduced him into the acts he committed against the children.
Prosecutors Britton Brooks and Matt Johnson had elected to try him on the top count he faced, the continuous abuse charge, in hopes of seeing him spend the rest of his life in prison, Brooks said earlier in the week.
That plan seemed to have worked Wednesday morning.
“Anybody that has the audacity to sexually molest two sweet little girls deserves nothing less than life in prison without parole,” Brooks said speaking of Hernandez, who Brooks characterized as “a monster.”
“The evidence showed that Jorge Hernandez committed the most despicable acts that, in my 10 years, I’ve ever seen committed against a child,” Brooks said.
Brooks said the life-without-parole sentence is about protecting children from Hernandez for the rest of his life. Johnson said there is proof that people like Hernandez don’t lose the urge to abuse children just because they get caught and sent to prison.
“That’s what the sex offender therapy and treatment program that the state has is kind of designed around is those (recidivism numbers),” Johnson said.
He then thanked Nall for handing down the maximum sentence possible in the case.
“It sends a very strong message to the community that child molesters are going to get caught,” Johnson said. “They’re going to go to prison for a very long time if they do this to a child. And it also sends a good message to the victims out there that they will be believed if they come forward and tell the truth, and they can get justice.”
Jason Bowes, who represented Hernandez in the case, said his office would automatically file a request for a new trial for Hernandez. He said the evidence against his client was, “pretty egregious, but sometimes our job is to make sure to keep everybody honest and do the best job that we can for our defendant.” He said the plea offer from the state wasn’t one that Hernandez was willing to accept.
If a new trial is not granted, Bowes said no decision had been made yet about an appeal.
In the penalty phase of the trial, prosecutors presented just one witness, the grandmother of the two girls Hernandez was found guilty of abusing. She said the girls continue to struggle to overcome the things Hernandez did to them. The children were 7 and 9 years old when the abuse started, according to testimony in the trial. The grandmother said one of the girls has become very guarded. The girl had “long beautiful hair,” the grandmother said, and then when the abuse allegations came to light, the girl wanted it cut and now refuses to let it grow out. The child, the grandmother said, wears boyish clothes and doesn’t like to be held or hugged even by family members.
The other girl, the grandmother said, is trying to work out her issues with what happened to her by being overly sexual toward other children. When asked, the grandmother said that child’s sexual curiosity was not present until she was abused by Hernandez. The grandmother said her daughter, the mother of the two children Hernandez raped and sodomized, now has zero trust for men. She has developed health concerns like high blood pressure and is on antianxiety medication, the grandmother said. Testimony during the trial revealed that the mother was pregnant with Hernandez’s son when she found out about the abuse and lost the child shortly thereafter.