Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Former Santo Niño health aide accused in three more sex abuse cases | Education

Former school health worker Robert Apodaca, who was charged in July of molesting a boy in 2019, faces 10 new charges, including three rape cases of alleged sexual abuse of two children and a teenager.

Apodaca, 30, last worked at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School, but resigned in late April on concerns of wrongdoing after a colleague said she found him in a dark, locked room with a 9-year-old boy on his lap. The child’s mother contacted the New Mexico State Police about the alleged incident, which prompted an investigation.

Three months later, Santa Fe police arrested him on three second-degree offenses for criminal sexual contact with a minor in an unrelated case. Apodaca was accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old student at Gonzales Community School, one of several public schools in the city where he worked as a health worker between 2012 and 2020.

An affidavit of the arrest warrant states that the boy also knew Apodaca from a local Jehovah’s Witness congregation. The boy’s parents discussed their concerns about Apodaca with a church elder who went to the police, according to the affidavit of the year.

The alleged abuse occurred in Apodaca’s car, a home, and the Gonzales Community School nurse’s office, the boy told police.

Apodaca remains in jail in the case.

In early September, news reports of the allegations against him sparked controversy in Santo Niño, where parents complained that they had not been informed of an investigation into the possible ill-treatment of a student after Apodaca’s departure in April or his arrest for abuse in July. Some called for headmistress Robin Chavez to be removed for her silence.

Arrest warrants filed Friday in the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court accuse Apodaca of molesting three other minors and engaging in “grooming” behavior, in which an adult establishes a personal relationship with a child in preparation for future sexual abuse.

One of the new cases against Apodaca involves the 9-year-old boy from Santo Niño, who told investigators in April that Apodaca offered him special treats and reportedly often took him to isolated locations on campus. The affidavit states that Apodaca has faced third-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor.

Two other affidavits describe alleged incidents in Santo Niño, the Boy Scouts of America’s Gorham Scout Ranch in Chimayó, and a house in Santa Fe.

Both prosecutors – 9-year-old and 16-year-old boys – came forward in September, the affidavits read.

The younger boy claimed he had multiple interactions with Apodaca in the Santo Niño hospital room in 2020. State Police began investigating the allegations on September 13 when the boy had a safe house interview at the Solace Crisis Treatment Center after revealing possible abuse to his parents. He described an incident in 2020 where Apodaca touched him above his clothes and another encounter where the man touched his genitals under his clothes, the affidavit reads.

Apodaca has faced two cases of criminal sexual contact with a second degree minor and two cases of third degree.

The third affidavit states that the 16-year-old boy turned to state police on September 7th with allegations of sexual abuse against Apodaca. He was a student at Gonzales Community School and likely Capital High School when Apodaca was serving as a health worker in the district on affidavit.

The teenager first sought homework help from Apodaca and was hired by him for medical duties at Gorham Ranch in June and July 2019.

The ranch administrators did not return messages asking for comments.

The affidavit said the teenager told investigators that Apodaca had given him food and other gifts such as video games.

The abuse culminated in June 2020, he said, when Apodaca gave him alcohol and invited him to stay at a house near Fort Marcy. The boy told police that he drank four or five bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade until he felt “quite confused” and fell asleep on a futon. He later woke up with physical signs that he had been sexually assaulted, he said.

Apodaca faces five charges in the case, including second-degree sexual penetration and contributing to the criminality of a minor.

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