AP NEWS

Family fears for girl’s safety after rape case dismissal

January 7, 2018

A man accused in October of raping a preteen Santa Fe girl was released from electronic monitoring more than a week ago, after the District Attorney’s Office failed to move the case forward within the allotted period of time.

Two felony charges against 56-year-old Robert Serrano of Los Lunas were dismissed Dec. 27 “for failure of the State of New Mexico District Attorney to prosecute,” court documents said. The case was dismissed without prejudice, which means prosecutors may refile it.

Serrano’s GPS monitor was removed the same day his case was dismissed, court documents show. And the girl’s family members are worried.

Two family members told The New Mexican that Serrano has called them multiple times since he was released from monitoring to ask about the girl, who was 12 at the time of the alleged sexual assault.

The first time he called was just days after his court case was dismissed, the family members said. It shook them. Around the time Serrano spoke with The New Mexican by phone Friday — calling the allegations a “misunderstanding” — he called again, they said.

District Attorney Marco Serna said the delay in prosecuting Serrano’s case stemmed from a heavy workload and a lack of resources in his office. The case required his staff to review more than 3,000 documents, he said, which was “obviously taking a little bit more time than we had anticipated.”

“We fully intend on charging him,” Serna said Friday, adding that he hopes to present charges against Serrano within the next month.

Serrano, who says he is innocent of the charges, was arrested by Santa Fe police Oct. 6 and booked into the Santa Fe County jailafter the girl told officers the two had twice engaged in sexual intercourse, according to a criminal complaint.

The girl told officers she was afraid, the complaint said, because she felt like she was being molested.

Serrano, who also goes by the alias “Pastor Marco,” according to police reports, was charged in the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court with two felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 in early October. Serrano was later released from jail on electronic monitoring, pending further court action.

Serna’s office did not seek a grand jury indictment before the monitoring period ran out.

“He’s now a free man until the DA files the correct paperwork,” the girl’s aunt said of Serrano.

“I literally have to ask [the girl’s caregiver] to text me every morning and every night, just to make sure that she’s alive,” the aunt said. “Her safety is at risk. My niece’s safety is at risk.”

The New Mexican is not naming the aunt to protect the girl’s identity.

In an interview Friday, Serrano told The New Mexican that the situation was “all a misunderstanding in the first place.”

He denied having sex with the girl. Instead, he said, he was trying to help the girl’s family and was at her house to prevent her from being sexually exploited over the internet.

Serna, asked if he considered Serrano dangerous, said: “Sex predators, in our opinion, are always dangerous, which is why these cases take priority in the office. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.”

His prosecutors work 100 cases at a time, he said, and that workload, coupled with the sheer number of documents to review in this case, meant they couldn’t file charges during a 60-day timeline.

“If I had three more attorneys, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have those types of resources.”

While prosecutors work, the girl’s family continues to worry.

“Hopefully, in the next month, another little girl like my niece is not traumatized in a way that will impact her for the rest of her life,” her aunt said.

Contact Sami Edge at 505-986-3055 or sedge@sfnewmexican.com.