Lady Justice sculpture. Photo via Pixabay
Lady Justice sculpture. Photo via Pixabay

Defense testimony began Monday in the trial of an ex-con charged with molesting his live-in girlfriend’s preteen daughters in Blythe and abusing their mother.

Francisco Bejarano Manjarrez Jr., 35, could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted of four counts of committing a lewd act against a child under 14 years old by using force, one count of sodomy by force/violence/fear on a victim under 14 years old, and a spousal abuse charge, according to Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall.

One of two young girls allegedly victimized by Manjarrez testified early in the trial that the defendant would take her into his room most Wednesdays when she got off early from school while her mother, who was dating Manjarrez, was still at work. She was 10 years old at the time.

According to a trial brief prepared by Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse, the alleged molestations came to light in 2017, when the younger sister admitted to being molested by Manjarrez. The older daughter then revealed he had allegedly molested her around 2010 and 2011, when she was between 8 and 9 years old.

Manjarrez is also accused of abusing their mother, leaving her with visible marks and bruises, and on one occasion, punching her nose and breaking it. They all lived with Manjarrez over several years in multiple Blythe houses throughout that time.

The older daughter told investigators he would hold her down during the alleged encounters, which she said always occurred in Manjarrez’s bedroom when the mother was out of the house.

Mulligan warned jurors during his opening statement against making hasty decisions regarding his client’s guilt or innocence.

Mulligan said that unlike other criminal cases, child molestation cases are often the only types of criminal matters that rely solely on testimony from victims — and in this case — “the story of a child.”

“Child molestation cases may be based entirely off the story of a child, without any kind of supporting evidence whatsoever,” he said.

Manjarrez, who’s jailed in lieu of $1 million bail, has prior felony convictions in Riverside County, including spousal abuse and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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