Case of Casper Man Accused of Sex Abuse Bound Over to District Court
The case of a Casper man accused of sexually abusing two young girls will be bound over to Natrona County District Court, a judge ruled at the end of a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning.
Hugo Mendoza-Cora, 36, was initially charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree, which carry a combined penalty of up to 30 years in prison.
But Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri presented amended charges during Tuesday's hearing.
Mendoza-Cora now stands accused of six crimes: three charges of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and three counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
He could face up to 105 years in prison if convicted on all charges, which allege that Mendoza-Cora sexually abused an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.
Tuesday's hearing, which was held to determine whether probable cause exists for the case to be bound over and tried in district court, saw Taheri call Detective Mitch Baker of the Casper Police Department to the witness stand.
Baker testified about the initial disclosure which led to the police investigation, saying one of the alleged victims told a schoolmate at Evansville Elementary that the victim's sister had been sexually abused by Mendoza-Cora.
One of the victims, in a forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Project, reportedly described repeated abuse by Mendoza-Cora.
The other victim -- the girl who told her schoolmate about the alleged abuse -- initially did not disclose any abuse. But, before being interviewed a second time, Baker said the victim told investigators she had lied during the first forensic interview.
She then reportedly went on to corroborate her sister's statements and describe sexual touching by Mendoza-Cora, Baker said.
During a medical exam of one victim, a sexual assault nurse examiner reportedly discovered an "anal tear." Court documents say a search warrant for DNA, biological swabs and photographs was granted following that exam.
Baker said investigators recovered several of the victims' clothing items, including pajamas. The victims reportedly told authorities that Mendoza-Cora would enter their bedroom at night and sexually abuse them.
Baker also testified that during his interview with Mendoza-Cora, the accused described one victim as a "good girl." But when asked whether any sexual abuse had occurred, Baker said, Mendoza-Cora repeatedly fell back on the phrase, "I have nothing to say about that."
Before stepping down from the witness stand on Tuesday, Baker told the court that questions have been raised about Mendoza-Cora's age and his relationship to the victims. Based on the date of birth Mendoza-Cora has provided to police on three separate occasions, Baker said, authorities believe him to be 36 years old.
However, authorities are currently unable to show who has legal guardianship of the victims. The victims were taken into protective custody following the disclosure on Oct. 20.
Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Steven Brown agreed that the state had established sufficient probable cause for the case to be bound over to district court.
Brown, during Mendoza-Cora's initial appearance last week, set bond in the matter at $50,000 cash or surety.
However, Mendoza-Cora will likely remain in custody regardless of bond, as he is in the U.S. illegally.