One Year Ago Today (September 17, 2020)…A Mexican national accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s gradeschool-age daughter over several years in Coachella must stand trial on nearly a dozen felony charges, a judge ruled.

Alfonso Gonzalez Meraz, 32, was arrested on Oct. 4, 2019, stemming from an investigation that began earlier that year into sex crimes that allegedly occurred between 2009 and 2015, starting when the alleged victim was between 7 and 8 years old.

Following a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dale R. Wells ruled prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to proceed to the trial.

Wells kept the defendant’s bail at $6 million and scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Oct. 1.

Meraz is charged withs four counts of engaging in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under 10 years old, two counts of engaging in oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child under 10 years old, one count of kidnapping to commit rape and four counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 years old.

He faces a possible sentence of 151 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Riverside County sheriff’s Investigator Claudia Herrera testified Thursday that the lleged victim reported being molested by the defendant within months of him moving into her mother’s Coachella home in the summer 2009.

The alleged attacks began as groping before morphing into instances of rape, Herrera said. At one point, the defendant raped the young girl while her mother, who was a “heavy sleeper,” slept beside them, the investigator alleged.

The victim reported to her mother an early instance of alleged groping, but her mother took no action, dissuading her daughter from reporting other acts of sexual assault, Herrera alleged.

“She was upset mom didn’t question any further,” the investigator said.

The alleged crimes came to light in early 2019 when the victim was in high school, about four years after the defendant moved out of the house in 2015, which is when the abuse stopped, according to the prosecution.

Meraz, who remains in custody at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County.

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