The trial of former Blaine County Sheriff’s Deputy Rene Rodriguez, charged with six sex-related felonies on a minor, continued in 5th District Court in Hailey on Wednesday and Thursday with the alleged victim testifying that Rodriquez had begun inappropriately touching her when she was 9.
Her testimony took up half the day Wednesday before the case had to be postponed until Thursday due to a family emergency of the lead defense attorney.
Witnesses presented on Thursday included the alleged victim; Robert Solito, an investigator with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office; Jaime Williams, a family friend of the alleged victim; and Kristina Rodriguez, mother to the alleged victim and ex-wife of the defendant.
Under questioning by the state’s leading prosecutor, Kristina Schindele, a deputy Idaho attorney general, the alleged victim initially described a normal childhood with Rodriguez teaching her, his adopted daughter, to read at his auto body shop. Testimony turned more arduous, though, when the alleged victim started describing the acts that resulted in the six felony charges. After describing the first incident of “inappropriate contact,” as the alleged victim referred to it when she was 9, she said, “I wasn’t completely sure this was how a father and daughter had contact with each other.”
Upon questioning by Schindelle, the alleged victim went on to describe subsequent acts of inappropriate contact. She also informed the court that she told her mother about the event when she was 9, expecting some kind of reaction but receiving none. Testimony also revealed that the alleged victim’s 12-year-old sister has had numerous medical ailments since birth that required the alleged victim’s mother to be out of the house often, leaving Rodriguez with the alleged victim and her siblings.
Now 23, the alleged victim has a 2-year-old son, the subject of a contested custody battle with the child’s father, who lives in California. During testimony, the jury learned that during this custody battle Rodriguez had sided with the child’s father, creating even more discord between Rodriguez and the alleged victim.
On Thursday, defense attorney Cheri Hicks cross-examined the alleged victim, pointing out that in the alleged victim’s first police report she said she had never been made to touch Rodriguez nor had performed oral sex on him, both of which she said did happen in her testimony Wednesday.
Attorney General’s investigator Robert Solito was called to testify as the main investigator of the case. Solito said he was made aware of the case after the alleged victim’s mother, Kristina Rodriguez, called the AG’s office to complain of the allegations made by the alleged victim against Rodriguez. When asked what triggered Solito’s investigation, he said, “[The alleged victim] told me she had learned that her 12-year-old sister was sleeping in the same bed as Rene Rodriguez.”
Solito testified that he pulled the records of two phones, both belonging to Rodriguez; one was the phone issued to him by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the other was for personal use and was confiscated during Rodriguez’s arrest. Solito said both phones showed text messages between the defendant and the alleged victim when she tried to confront him about the past allegations and the current custody battle and his role in it.
The next witness called, family friend Jaime Williams, said he had known the Rodriguez family, particularly Kristina, for about 18 years. Williams testified that during that time, he had often seen Kristina suffer bouts of depression that made it “hard to even get off the couch,” let alone take care of her kids; slack that the alleged victim often picked up. The witness also described Kristina’s relationship with Rodriguez as “obsessive” and that “she just always wanted to be around him.”
The state’s final witness before breaking mid-day was Kristina Rodriguez, who described her relationship with her daughter, the alleged victim, as difficult after she reached puberty and her teenage years. The witness described the numerous medical problems afflicting her family as the alleged victim was growing up, including heart problems and a diagnosis of Williams syndrome for her youngest child, which often required Kristina to be gone for hours or even days to attend surgeries in Boise with her daughter.
Testimony in the trial is expected to wrap up today.