Man pleads guilty to attempted sex assault

Robert Garcia, 34, could get three years in prison at sentencing March 15

Patrick and Jennifer Germond couldn't figure out what was going on with their 13-year-old daughter. They couldn't explain the secretive phone calls and why she seemed to withdraw from activities that she used to love.

As it turns out, Rachelle, now 15, was becoming sexually involved with a man more than twice her age.

"She changed a lot in those months," Jennifer said. "I think she honestly believed that he loved her."

Robert Garcia, 34, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault in state district court Tuesday. He faces as many as three years in prison, three years of parole and fines of as much as $100,000, District Judge Paul McLimans said. As part of the plea deal, Garcia will have to register as a sexual offender. He was taken into the custody of the Moffat County Jail on a $50,000 bond. Two other charges, including sexual assault on a child, were dropped. Two other cases, one involving another alleged sexual assault, also were dropped. Garcia is scheduled for sentencing March 15.

Rachelle asked that the newspaper print her name. The Craig Daily Press typically does not print the names of victims of sexual assault.

Rachelle said she and a former juvenile female friend had contact with Garcia when he lived a few doors away from the friend's uncle house.

Rachelle said her friend initially pressed charges against Garcia, but the charges later were dropped. Rachelle said the former best friends have lost their friendship because of the ordeal.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said she is pushing for maximum jail sentence for Garcia. She said that although the victim wanted to press forward with a trial that had been set to begin Monday, the plea bargain might have helped the family deal with the situation.

"It's a hard thing to do, even though things are in place to protect the victim," Fitch said. "The victim ends up being on trial themselves. It becomes difficult to stick to your guns."

Rachelle's parents said they chose to pursue the case partly because they wanted to send a message that it's not OK "for a 33-year-old man to hit on little girls," Patrick said.

"There's predators out there," he added. "If you have the feeling that something isn't right with your child, you shouldn't ignore it."

Based on their own experiences, the Germonds wondered aloud how many other families deal with sexual assaults, and how many of those cases aren't prosecuted.

"The main thing is, I want (Garcia) to be on the sex-offender list," Jennifer said. "People never really check on who their neighbors are. Craig is such a small town, you just don't expect it."

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