A Durango teen suspected of breaking into a woman’s home and sexually assaulting her appeared Friday in District Court. The biggest question centered around whether he can be tried as an adult.
Aaron Sandoval, who was 17 at the time, is being charged as an adult with burglary, sexual assault and being in possession of burglary tools. He is suspected of being armed with a screwdriver.
The incident occurred early on Aug. 14 near 30th Street and West Second Avenue in Durango. Police identified Sandoval as a suspect early in the investigation, but it took several months to collect enough evidence to make an arrest.
In the meantime, residents remained on high alert for an at-large burglar and possible rapist.
Sandoval, who is now 18, appeared Friday in 6th Judicial District Court wearing an orange jail-issued jumpsuit. He sat still and appeared attentive to the proceedings. He is being held at the La Plata County Jail on $250,000 bail.
Friday’s hearing covered two issues:
During a preliminary hearing prosecutors presented evidence to convince District Judge Jeffrey Wilson that a crime was committed and that Sandoval was connected to it.
During a reverse-transfer hearing, defense lawyers argued Sandoval shouldn’t be charged as an adult. It then becomes the judge’s decision whether prosecutors can proceed with charging him as an adult. It is a new state law, and this is the first time it has been argued locally or by the Colorado Public Defender’s Office.
Wilson found probable cause to allow prosecutors to go forward with their charges, but the reverse-transfer hearing ran long and had to be continued until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Prosecutors played an hour-long recording Friday in which Sandoval told police he broke into the woman’s home and had sexual contact with her.
Joe Farmer, an investigator with the Durango Police Department, said the 20-year-old woman awoke to find him on top of her holding a screwdriver.
She asked how he got into her house and if he would leave, Farmer said. Sandoval said he entered through a window and that he had stolen $10,000 and was in trouble.
“They’re going to kill me,” he told her.
The woman asked if he would leave if she allowed him to have sex with her. Sandoval agreed, and the woman asked him to wear a condom, which she provided him from her nightstand, according to her statements to police.
He apologized during the act, tried to hug her afterward and held her arm as she showed him to the door, Farmer testified.
Sandoval is suspected of leaving the condom in the bedroom at the foot of the bed.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation performed a DNA analysis that returned a match to Sandoval, according to an arrest affidavit.
A substance-abuse counselor who mentored Sandoval and a doctor who evaluated him testified he had a troubled childhood. He experienced domestic violence in the household growing up, he didn’t have a father figure, he possibly was sexually assaulted by an uncle, his aunt died in a fire, and he started using drugs and alcohol at about age 7.
Defense lawyers have argued that these factors have delayed Sandoval’s development.
The same experts said Sandoval knows the difference between right and wrong, but he keeps making bad decisions, regardless of the treatment he receives in youth correctional facilities.
If Sandoval is adjudicated as a juvenile, the most he can serve is about two years, when he turns 21.