Editor’s note: This article contains graphic content and language.
BONHAM — Jurors in Bonham’s 336th State District court had been warned on Monday that the testimony they were going to hear this week would be graphic. And they were told that Sergio Maldonado Facundo was facing one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. But the looks on their faces as the testimony in the case began in earnest Tuesday said they weren’t prepared for what they heard.
While this case, and its numerous companion cases charging similar crimes committed against other children in the same home, deals with sexual abuse, the whole thing started on Sept. 12, 2015 when Joel Noria, 12, was struck and killed by an SUV as he chased a ball across the road in front of his family’s house in Trenton.
Noemi Isobel Noria, the child’s 41-year-old mother; her husband Pedro Noria, 28; and her son, Nelson Rodriguez, 19, all now face charges for sexually abusing the younger children in the family.
In court on Tuesday, prosecutor Don Hoover described the house simply as a single-wide trailer. As details of what was happening to the children who called that place home began to unfold, it was hard not think of the house as the worst kind of horror house — a real one.
Prosecutors allege that Sergio Facundo made it a practice of raping a young boy who lived in that white house set back on the property owned by young Joel’s grandfather. For purposes of the trial, the young boy is being referred to as Michael. In Hoover’s opening arguments he said, Michael’s mother and stepfather not only failed to protect their child from Facundo, they served the child up.
The abuse the child allegedly suffered during his childhood years is so severe, a relative testified, he has to live in a special treatment center to help him cope with the trauma he has sustained in his 11 years.
The child, the state said, was only 8 or 9 when Secundo began sodomizing him. One witness testified that the child drew pictures in which he depicted Secundo abusing him while the child’s mother slept in the same room and the child’s stepfather, who have both also been charged with crimes against the children in different cases, looked on from across the room. Another drawing depicted the young boy’s mother walking him into her workplace and taking him into an office where Secundo waited. The mother then left her child there to be abused by Secundo. The young boy said Secundo also abused him at the trailer belonging to the child’s grandfather.
Lee Salas, who represents Secundo, was questioning the woman the young boy drew the pictures for when the case took a wild turn. Hoover had already told the jury that the sexual assault exam of the little boy showed his anus was dilated and that the condition was an indication of sexual abuse. As Salas questioned the woman the two, who appeared to have met previously in a courtroom about the abuse allegations, began to go back and forth with each other. The woman didn’t simply answer questions for the attorney the way most witnesses do. She started asking him questions and demanding that he tell her things. As the situation began to escalate, the woman said she understands how the young boy at the heart of the case feels because she was raped as a child. She then told the whole courtroom that rape was condoned by the adults in the family and has been for years.
“All of the children have been raped,” the woman practically spat at the defense attorney, adding, that the children had to be sent to foster separate homes because they were raping each other.
It was all they knew, she said, because the mother condoned it.
Later in the afternoon, the 11-year-old boy took the stand wearing a lime green, long-sleeve shirt with a coordinating plaid tie on the outside and a long sleeve superman shirt under it. The sleeves of the undershirt ended in fingerless gloves that featured the Superman symbol on the tops of them.
Hoover sat in a chair directly in front of the young boy as he walked him over the allegations that his parents not only offered him up for abuse, they also participated. The young boy said his mother put duct tape on his mouth while his stepfather tied him face down on a bed. The pair then allowed Secundo to rape their child, the boy said.
Salas questioned the boy about what exactly happened during each of the three instances and pointed out that the boy’s story showed differences over time. The defense attorney said his client is charged with sexually abusing the boy and causing the injuries discovered in the SANE exam but it is hard to accept that Secundo could go to jail for that when other people were also abusing the boy. And, he said, it is impossible to tell which assault caused the injuries. The young boy answered the questions politely for a few minutes but seemed to grow increasingly upset as Salas pressed him about his feelings for his mother and his hatred for other people who abused him. Soon, the young boy was staring daggers through the defense attorney and cursing him openly in court. The defense attorney asked one too many questions for the boy’s liking and the child responded, “I don’t trust your a—, now can you please sit the hell down.”
The questioning continued a few more rounds before the defense attorney announced he was finished with his questions and the boy said, “Thank the Lord,” as he walked away from the stand.
The day’s last witness was Britney Martin, the executive director of the Grayson County Children’s Advocacy Center who testified that she had done the forensic interview for the young boy at the heart of the case. She said he presented the way a lot of children in his situation do for those interviews — ashamed, scared, embarrassed and nervous. She said he did make an outcry against Secundo on that first day and that he seemed to get frustrated as the interview wore on. She said frustration is not uncommon in such situations. Neither, she said, is a child whose story changes after the initial outcry because abused children don’t always remember everything all at once. And they sometimes don’t trust the interviewers enough to tell everything all at once.
The case is expected to continue Wednesday in the 336th state District Court with Judge Laurie Blake presiding.