A jury was seated Monday for the trial of a 41-year-old man accused of molesting an underage relative for nearly a decade in the San Jacinto Mountain community of Pinyon Pines.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday afternoon in the trial of Stanford James Stelle III, who was arrested in 2015 on allegations that he sexually assaulted the girl from 2003, when she was 5 years old, until 2012, when she was 13.
The Pinyon Pines resident faces a potential life sentence if convicted of six counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, one count of committing sex acts on a child under 10 years old and three counts each of oral copulation on a minor and lewd acts on a child under 14 years by using force.
Following several weeks of jury selection, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dale Wells swore in a panel Monday morning for the trial at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, which is expected to last up to three weeks.
Stelle remains behind bars on $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to a declaration in support of the arrest warrant prepared by a Riverside County sheriff’s investigator, the alleged victim told authorities she was molested by Stelle at several locations on a weekly basis over a period of several years. One of the acts allegedly occurred during a birthday party for a 91-year-old relative, court papers say.
The declaration alleges that in March 2015, after the molestation had stopped, the victim and Stelle spoke over the phone, and he admitted to molesting her. During the call, he allegedly said he would “take it all back” if he could and said “he was seeking help from a doctor for his problems,” the document alleges. He was charged 10 days after the call, court records show.
Stelle, who has no felony convictions, was previously found mentally incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to a state mental hospital for treatment. Criminal proceedings were restarted last year after the court found his competency had been restored.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: