UPDATE NO. 2, SEPT. 8, 4:04 P.M.: Orange County prosecutors, who
were to ask got a judge to agree that Jose Luis Aguilera be held on $1 million bail at arraignment today, is seeking the public's help in finding other possible victims of the Jehovah's Witness church member accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting four girls under the age of 11. The Orange County District Attorney's office has charged the 41-year-old Santa Ana resident with two felony counts of kidnapping for the purpose of child molesting, seven felony counts of committing lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, one felony count of sexual penetration with a child 10 years old or younger, and sentencing enhancement allegations for committing lewd acts upon multiple victims.
Arraignment was rescheduled to Oct. 2 for Aguilera, who did not enter a plea today. If Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown of the Sexual Assault Unit wins a conviction in the case, Aguilera could get up to 130 years to life in state prison. "Between Oct. 12, 2012, and Sept. 8, 2015, Aguilera is accused of sexually assaulting four victims between the ages of 9 and 11," reads an OCDA statement. "The defendant is accused of committing lewd acts on the victims, including but not limited to touching victims' genitals, digital penetration, and kissing the victims. During that time the defendant is also accused of kidnapping two of the victims at different times and driving the victims to separate locations in Tustin and Santa Ana with the intent to sexually assault them." Anyone with additional information or who believes they may they may have been a victim is asked to contact OCDA Supervising Investigator Mark Gutierrez at 714.347.8794, Santa Ana Police Detective Alex Peartida at 714.245.8660 or Tustin Police Detective Hardacre at 714.573.3248.
UPDATE NO. 1, SEPT. 4, 6:13 P.M.: Add a third man placed behind bars today for alleged sex crimes with a minor, and this one is a teacher at Santa Ana High School. A joint investigation by the Santa Ana Police Department and the Santa Ana Unified School District Police resulted in detectives today arresting Alvar Albert Gonzalez, 45, of Santa Ana, for alleged possessing/producing obscene matter and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The victim was a freshman girl who first met Gonzalez while taking his class at Santa Ana High School, where in 2013 he arranged to meet the 16-year-old in his classroom during school lunch breaks, according to a Santa Ana police statement that alleges the teacher engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with her nine times. Gonzalez is accused the following year of approaching a second female student and kissing her, which caused Santa Ana Unified School District officials to place the teacher on administrative leave, police say. These school officials later discovered "inappropriate electronic images of youthful looking females on Gonzalez' electronic media storage devices," police say. Detectives identified one female by name, located her and obtained her statement--and further investigation "revealed additional images depicting criminal activity between Gonzalez and the victim occurring in 2013," police say. Investigators fear there may be more victims and ask anyone with information to contact detectives at 714.245.8542. Gonzalez was booked into the Santa Ana Jail.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 4, 3:47 P.M.: There will be two fewer men tied to molestations of children they met at Orange County churches on the streets this weekend, with one in jail and another going off to prison for the rest of his life.
Christopher Bryan McKenzie Sr., 51, of Costa Mesa, was a pool cleaner and volunteer Sunday school teacher at Christ Church by the Sea in Newport Beach and Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa.
"On multiple occasions between March 31, 1996, and Jan. 8, 2012, McKenzie committed lewd acts upon six different victims under the age of 14, including but not limited to masturbating, sexually penetrating, and orally copulating the victims," reads an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement. "The defendant instructed several of the victims to remove their clothes and took nude photos of the victims under the guise that the photos would be used for modeling a sculpture."
A jury in July found McKenzie guilty of 11 felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14 years old, one felony count of attempted lewd acts upon a child under 14 years old, four felony counts of using a minor for sex acts, one felony count of attempting to use a minor for sex acts, two felony counts of distributing pornography to a minor, and one felony count of possession of child pornography with sentencing enhancements for substantial sexual conduct with a child and committing lewd acts upon a child under 14 years old against more than one victim.
At his sentencing today, when he received a term of 60 years to life in state prison, a statement was reach by a victim who said, "A door opened for me that has led me to understand why this happened, and how it was not my fault. This led me to forgive the man that abused me, not for his own benefit, but for mine."
He told parents of the other victims, "The circumstances of how this all played out was out of the ordinary, there were no neon signs to alarm you. If he fooled a whole church congregation, then it was done very carefully."
The brother of another victim told the court (and McKenzie), "I can't put into words the feelings I felt when my brother first told me what you did to him. To this day, it is still very much affecting him in life and I hope all the other victims can delete the memories of the horrible things you did to them and move on and live a happy life."
Also today, Tustin and Santa Ana police detectives arrested a 41-year-old man for multiple charges of alleged sexual assaults against children between 9 and 12 years old, whom the suspect met through four families he worshiped with at the Kingdom Hall Jehovah's Witness church in Santa Ana.
Jose Aguilera is not employed by the church, but he "created situations where he was allowed to visit the victims' homes or transport victims in his car. The alleged assaults occurred when Aguilera was alone with the children," according to the Santa Ana Police Department.
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The first known sexual assault occurred in the spring of 2014 at Aguilera's Tustin home, where a second child was also victimized, police say. Aguilera then moved to Santa Ana, where two more children were assaulted, the last one in July, police say.
The cases came to light when the family member of one victim contacted authorities. "Because of the way Aguilera gained access to the victims, detectives believe there could be other potential victims who have yet to come forward," notes the Santa Ana Police Department, which asks members of the public to call detectives if they suspect Aguilera had inappropriate contact or access to children (at 714.245.8660).
Aguilera was booked into the Santa Ana Jail on multiple child sexual abuse counts, police say.