VICTORVILLE – Two gang members were sentenced to life terms March 1, 2013, for their role in a child sex/torture case in Apple Valley that was described by prosecutors as one of the worst in San Bernardino County history.
Superior Court Judge John Tomberlin sentenced MARTIN MORALES, 36, to the maximum term of 78 years to life in prison and JUAN CARLOS SANTOSHERRERA, age 23, to 32 years to life in prison. A third defendant CRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ, 36, was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
“This is one of the worst child abuse cases we have ever seen. Morales and SantosHerrera subjected this child to the most inhumane and vile treatment possible, and it is appropriate for them to spend the rest of their lives in prison,” Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the case, said.
On August 11, 2009, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, went to a house in Apple Valley and found a 5-year-old boy, Johnny, in a closet. Evidence presented at trial indicated that over the summer Johnny had been burned at least 10 times with a hot spoon and glue gun, suffered approximately 100 other injuries from beatings with belts, an electrical cord and punches to the face, and was sodomized by defendants Morales, SantosHerrera and a third Defendant, Ismael Frias, then age 16.
In addition, Morales beat and used a sharp object to inflict a large scar on his own 12-year-old son, Richard, according to evidence presented in a trial that ended June 8, 2012 in Victorville Superior Court. Evidence also indicated that Morales was a “shot caller” for a Los Angeles street gang, while other defendants were also members of the same gang. They had moved to Apple Valley that summer.
Morales and SantosHerrera were each found guilty of sodomy on a child age 10 or under; torture, and child abuse for their assaults on Johnny. Morales was also found guilty of Torture, and Child Abuse for his abuse of his 12-year-old son Richard. Rodriguez, who was the mother of Richard, was found guilty of Child Abuse based on prosecutors’ arguments that she failed to protect Richard from Morales’ abuse.
Two other defendants, Frias and Johnny’s mother, Desiree Gonzales, are charged with torture and are pending trial. Johnny was later adopted by a relative, Maria Haro, who told the court Friday that Johnny suffers severe emotional problems as a result of the abuse, and must take medications each day to cope with stress and trauma from his ordeal.