In what police described as a truly “horrific story,” a California couple has been accused of sexually abusing more than 10 children over the course of the last decade.
Francisco Avendaño, 42, and his girlfriend, Jacqueline Wadsworth, 32, were arrested at their home in Santa Clarita after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau conducted an extensive investigation last month following a complaint from the mother of one of the victims of the prolonged abuse, reports Fox News.
The California couple have been charged with 12 counts of “lewd acts with a child,” and police suspect that there might still be other victims out there who have not come forward to share their experiences with Avendaño and Wadsworth, whose bail has been set at $2,020,000 and $220,000, respectively.
Sgt. Brian Hudson confirmed that police suspect the couple of having molested more children during the past 10 years, but said that at least 10 cases of sexual abuse of children have been registered against them. Both boys and girls, aged three to 17 years, were reportedly victims of the abuse over the last decade.
“Based on information developed over the course of this investigation, detectives believe that there are other children that may have potentially been sexually assaulted by these suspects during the past 10 years.
“The suspects had access to the children because they were kids in the neighborhood and children of friends. We are concerned there may be additional children who have been abused that we are not aware of yet…
“It’s a horrific story.”
The horrific case of the prolonged abuse of children at the hands of the California couple came to light last month after the mother of a 12-year-old victim filed a complaint with the police. The boy, whose name has not been released to keep his identity safe, told detectives that there were other children with him in the home at the time.
Following the complaint, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department launched an extensive investigation into the couple’s activities, in the process discovering that more than 10 children had been abused by Avendaño and Wadsworth in the last decade alone. During the course of the decade, the California couple changed houses at least three times, living in different locations in Santa Clarita including Newhall, Canyon Country, and Castaic.
Police say that the couple sexually abused children in each of those houses.
“Many times they’ve threatened the kids that ‘if you say something, I will harm you, I will harm your family,’ ” said Sgt. Brian Hudson.
This horrific case of child abuse took so long to come to light because children are often ashamed to recount such experiences, Hudson said, before adding that the children only disclose the abuse in therapy sessions or with a parent.
Hudson made an appeal to other parents to come forward to help the police indict the couple. “We want to find any other children out there who have been victimized, identify them and assist them with getting justice,” he said.
If indicted, the California couple can expect to spend a long time in prison. While Wadsworth faces a maximum sentence of almost 10 years, Avendaño faces a 135-year-long prison sentence, meaning he will effectively spend the rest of his life in jail if found guilty.
[Image via Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department]