FROM STAFF REPORTS
BURNET — A Burnet County jury recommended a sentence of 12 years in prison after convicting Jesus Jose “Joey” Lacer on Jan. 11 of sexually assaulting his girlfriend.
State District Judge Allan Garrett then sentenced the man for that term. Along with the sexual assault charge, the jury also convicted Lacer of choking the same woman and recommended 10 years in prison for that crime. The two sentences will run concurrently.
“This trial brings to light the plight of many women and children who are victims of abuse,” said Burnet County District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee. “It does not matter whether the abuse is fueled by drugs or just caused by cruel people.”
The investigation began in May 2015 when Child Protective Services investigator and former Dallas police officer Kristin Cantu began looking into a possible case of neglect involving the children of Lacer and his girlfriend. During an interview of the children, Cantu noticed bruises on the mother’s face, arms, and ribs. Though tasked with investigating possible child abuse, Cantu asked the woman about any abuse directed toward her.
Initially, the woman told Cantu that Lacer, her on-and-off-again boyfriend of 13 years, had physically assaulted her, including stomping on her and choking her in a motel room with the children present.
Later during the CPS investigation, prior to a child custody hearing, the victim told Cantu that Lacer had also sexually assaulted her that same day.
According to the district attorney’s office, Cantu escorted the woman to the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office, where BCSO Deputy Joe Saldivar took her statement and opened an investigation that eventually led to Lacer’s arrest on the sexual assault charge.
During the trial before Garrett, Lacer blamed his violence on methamphetamine use and the victim, according to the district attorney’s statement.
“Lacer claimed that the bruises on the victim’s side were caused as he tripped over her as she lay on the floor, rather than by him stomping on her,” the district attorney’s office release stated. “He claimed the bruises on her face were caused by the victim striking herself, and the bruises on her arms were from (him) taking her by the arms to lift her out of his way as he left the motel.”
The man also told the court the sex was consensual, according to the district attorney’s office release.
Though the defense tried to sway the jury that the victim alleged the sexual assault to bolster a positive outcome in the child custody case, the woman testified that “her rights to her children depended on what she did in the future to change and not what Lacer had done or would do in the future.”
The jury deliberated for four hours before returning a guilty verdict for the charges of assault-family violence by impeding breath (choking) and sexual assault.
Assistant District Attorney Amber Shanafelt, who assisted McAfee in prosecuting the case, said these cases are difficult to prosecute because often, even if the victim has the courage to come forward, the abuser manages to convince her to take him back and drop the charges.
“More times than not, victims do not work out of that cycle of violence … until something drastic occurs,” she said. “My hope is that women who are victimized realize help is available to change.”
In this situation, McAfee said the victim has taken steps to break the cycle of violence and carve out a better life for her and her children.
“The most satisfying part of this investigation and prosecution was in learning the rest of the story of this victim and her children,” he said. “In the last 20 months, the victim has moved away from this area and has been successful in staying off drugs completely, becoming employed, attending classes, and participating in therapy with her children.
“Her children have gone from living in motel to motel in drug-infested areas to a stable home environment and making straight A’s,” McAfee added. “I am pleased this woman had the strength to say something about the violence and then take positive steps toward a normal, productive life for her and those wonderful kids.”
If a person knows a victim of abuse or family violence, or they themselves are victims, call the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center Hotline at (830) 693-5600 or local law enforcement. The Family Crisis Center provides services from the time of the incident throughout the entire healing and recovery process.