A 69-year-old man was convicted Monday of molesting three girls over about a 10-year period while living with the victims in Laguna Niguel.
Catalino Avelino was convicted of four counts of lewd acts with a child younger than 14 as well as three counts of attempted lewd acts on a child younger than 14, all felonies, according to court records. He was acquitted of one count of attempted lewd act on a child younger than 14, according to court records.
Jurors also found true sentencing enhancement allegations for multiple victims.
Avelino is scheduled to be sentenced April 12.
The molestation occurred from September 2006 through August 2013 for one victim, September 2006 through January 2015 for another victim and September 2006 through October 2010 for a third victim, according to prosecutors.
Avelino was dating a relative of the three girls, two of whom are sisters, according to Deputy District Attorney Heidi Garrel. One victim is a cousin of the other two girls.
One girl said she was molested starting when she was 7 and until she was 13, Garrel said. Another said the molestation occurred from when she was 5 until she was 13, the prosecutor added.
Another victim said she was molested from when she was 9 through 13 years old, Garrel said.
“He would take her into his room a couple of times a week,” Garrel said in her opening statement. “He would put on pornography while undressing her.”
After one of the girls came forward in November 2015, the defendant “admits that on multiple occasions to touching these three girls,” Garrel said.
Avelino told Orange County sheriff’s investigators that he “can sleep happy that night because he felt bad, but now he told the police the truth,” Garrel said.
Avelino also wrote an “apology letter” to his accusers, Garrel said.
Avelino’s attorney, Sarah Hefling, said the “innocent behavior” of her client became “sinister” when the victims began “reaching for a memory.”
Avelino is “not guilty. He did not touch … any of these girls,” Hefling said in her opening statement of the trial.
Hefling accused sheriff’s investigators of a “very accusatory” interrogation in which “they were intent on hearing what they wanted to hear.”
Hefling said her client is “not a sophisticated man,” and that he “can’t really write or read.” His oral comprehension is at a second-grade level and his reading level is at the kindergarten level, Hefling said.
Avelino’s initial accuser came forward to authorities when she was 15 years old and “found herself in the school counselor’s office,” Hefling said.
Later, she and the other two girls got together and discussed the case, which they were instructed not to do, Hefling said.
The girls apparently didn’t like Avelino and disapproved of his relationship with a relative of theirs, Hefling said.
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