Child victim testifies in school bus driver’s trial, jury taken on bus
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - The alleged victim of an Ocean Springs School District bus driver testified Tuesday that “he would touch me.”
Sergio Sandoval, 69, is accused of inappropriately touching an 8-year-old girl on his bus in 2014 on at least four different occasions. Tuesday was the second day of his trial in Jackson County Circuit Court.
District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath showed the victim, now 13-years-old, photos from the bus’ surveillance camera that documented the times that she would stand next to Sandoval on the bus.
She said that during those times, he would put his arm around her back and unzip her pants. The girl said “he would touch me.” When McIlrath asked her where, she answered “in my private parts.”
The girl said sometimes Sandoval would touch her panties and rub her, but on October 6, he touched her inside her underwear. When asked if he touched her inside her body, she answered, “yes.”
The victim testified the touching happened on multiple occasions.
The state rested their case, and the defense began interviewing witnesses.
On cross examination, defense attorney James Davis tried, with little success, to find inconsistencies in her testimony to the forensic interviewer and Tuesday’s testimony.
The bus, where the alleged touching happened, was brought to the courthouse for the jury to look at. After the jury, Sandoval and his attorney spent a few minutes on the bus, then the prosecutors were taken on the bus.
When everyone returned to the courtroom, the defense rested.
The victim’s father testified on Monday that the victim told him about the touching on October 7, 2014. He took her to the Ocean Springs Police Department to file a report. The victim was given a forensic interview a couple of days later.
The girl’s father waited in the hallway outside the courtroom while she testified. The principal of Oak Park Elementary School, where the girl attended in 2014, was also there during her testimony.
The state rested their case Tuesday afternoon, and the defense began calling witnesses to the stand.
On Monday, Justin Grafton, the chief investigator for the District Attorney’s office, showed the jury several videos of bus trips, where it appears that Sandoval called the victim to the front of the bus multiple times. Neither Sandoval nor the victim can be seen when she is at the front of the bus, which Grafton explained meant she was standing right next to him. Grafton said Sandoval would give the victim candy on these visits to the front.
On another day, when a substitute driver drove the bus, the victim wasn’t called to the front of the bus at all.
The girl testified that when other children would come to the front of the bus while he was touching her, Sandoval would pull her next to him so no one could see what he was doing.
Sandoval went to trial in 2017 but collapsed in court. A mistrial was declared when a psychologist was unable to determine whether he was suffering from a mental illness. But a Jackson County judge had since ruled the 69-year-old competent to stand trial.
Closing arguments are expected Wednesday morning.
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