A Santa Clarita, California, couple has been arrested and charged with sexually molesting at least 10 children in their neighborhood.
According to People Magazine, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged Jacqueline Wadsworth, 32, and Francisco Avendaño, 42, with multiple accounts of lewd acts with a child. The couple is currently being held police custody on $220,000 and $2 million bail, respectively. They will appear in a San Fernando court on Friday, and will be represented by their public defenders.
The police reportedly began investigating the couple in March after a 12-year-old boy told his mother that the pair had molested him in late 2015. The boy, who has not been identified, said there were other children in the house at the time of the assault. Prosecutors said Wadsworth and Avendaño would fondle the children while they played “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” a popular teenage party game that requires two people to enter a closet and “interact romantically” for seven minutes. The couple would allegedly take the children to separate private rooms where the molestation would take place, and then threaten them with dire consequences if they told anyone about what had happened.
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A March 31 search of their home lead to the couple’s arrest. According to Fox News,formal charges were filed against Wadsworth and Avendaño on April 4, and an amended complaint was filed a week later on April 11. The indictment does not disclose the victim’s full names. Rather, they are identified by only their first name — Katherine O., Austin C., Jasmine O., Jose O., Jasmine R., Xochitl S., Maria S. and Pedro P.
“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,” Sgt. Brian Hudson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau said in a statement.
“The suspects had access to the children because they were kids in the neighborhood and children of friends,” Hudson continued. “We are concerned there may be additional children who have been abused that we are not aware of yet.”
Police say it is difficult to determine how many other victims may be out there, as the couple lived in three different locations in Santa Clarita, including Newhall, Canyon Country, and Castaic, over the course of a decade, and police believe children were molested in each of the homes.
“Based on interviews with the victims and witnesses, there were other children around when the abuse took place, and we believe there could be other victims that have not come forward,” Hudson said. “We want to find any other children out there who have been victimized, identify them and assist them with getting justice. Often times, victims of abuse can get on the road to closure by addressing their case, getting the resources they need, and holding the people accountable for what they have done.”
Avendaño was a clerical staff employee at a Santa Clarita medical facility, who had multiple vehicle code violations and property crimes on his record. Wadsworth is unemployed and has no criminal record.
According to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles District Attorney, Wadsworth faces a maximum sentence of 10 years, 8 months in state prison and Avendaño faces 135 years to life if they are found guilty of the charges. They will also be required to register as a sex offender and submit to a blood test to determine whether they have AIDS.
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