SALINAS, Calif. (KION) The Monterey County District Attorney's Office says a Salinas man was found guilty by a jury of molesting two 10-year-old girls.
The DA's Office said the jury found 48-year-old Epifanio Ledesma Montoya guilty of five counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, and one count involves force or duress.
Police said they learned of the molestation in November 2019 when one victim's mother found video on her phone of a relative, identified as Montoya, engaging in sex acts with her daughter's friend.
The first victim told police that Montoya sexually abused her multiple times beginning when she was in third grade. When she was in fourth grade, she said it became more serious and violent. In fifth grade, she told her friend, the other victim, that Montoya molested her and they planned to see if they could get evidence of Montoya molesting the second victim.
In September 2019, the second victim visited the first after school and set up a cell phone in Montoya's bedroom to record video. The DA's Office said the girl's friend lied down next to Montoya in front of the camera, and within minutes, investigators said Montoya had the girl engage in sex acts with him. Later the same day, a second video recorded additional sex acts with the friend.
The first victim told police that they recorded the acts to have evidence and make the abuse stop, but waited to report the abuse because she was afraid of what Montoya would do to her family.
When Montoya was interviewed by police, they said he initially denied molesting the girls, but eventually admitted to a couple sex acts with the girls. He denied initiating much of what happened and said the first victim's friend provoked him into engaging in sex acts. The DA's Office said that when he testified in trial and was shown the video, he admitted to lying to police and said he initiated the sex acts.
Montoya is expected to be required to register as a sex offender for life. He could face a maximum sentence of 125 years-to-life in prison because of the extent of the sexual contact with each of the girls.
The DA's Office also recognized the jury for their service. When the trial began in mid-January, they expected that it would last 1 to 2 weeks, but it was delayed a few days after it started because Montoya had possible exposure to COVID-19. When the trial resumed, a juror got a positive COVID-19 test result on the last day, which led to another delay. The trial was finished on February 22.