Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sentencing delayed in sexual-abuse case

Girl, 7, was victimized previously in earlier sexual assault

Express Staff Writer

Robert Cochachi-Macha

Sentencing was delayed last week for a Peruvian national who has admitted to sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl last year.

It's the second criminal case in Blaine County 5th District Court involving the same child. The girl was also sexually victimized at the age of 4 by another Peruvian national who was sentenced in 2007 to up to 20 years in prison.

In the later case, the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is seeking a 25-year prison sentence for Robert Cochachi-Macha, who admitted to the felony crime of lewd conduct with a child under 16 at a change-of-plea hearing in December. Cochachi-Macha, 26, was originally charged with two other felonies—rape and sexual abuse of a child under 16—for allegedly committing multiple sex acts against the girl last summer.

According to a Hailey police report, the girl was staying with a relative at the Balmoral Apartments complex in Hailey when she was sexually assaulted by Cochachi-Macha on July 16. According to police, Cochachi-Macha was renting a bedroom at the home.

Cochachi-Macha has remained incarcerated in the Blaine County jail on $100,000 bond since his arrest on the morning of July 17. According to court records, Cochachi-Macha is originally from Peru but is a legal resident in the United States.

Sentencing was set for Monday, March 7, but was rescheduled that day to March 28 because of complications with the pre-sentence investigation report.

The Roark Law Firm in Hailey has been appointed public defender. Firm attorney Douglas Nelson said the pre-sentence report was only received a few days before March 7 and attorneys were unable to line up an interpreter in time to translate the information into Spanish.

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Ovidio Ricaldi-Villajuan

The earlier case involving the child was against Ovidio Ricaldi-Villajuan, now 27, an illegal immigrant who sexually assaulted the girl on Nov. 11, 2006. Hailey police reported then that the assault occurred during a party at the child's mother's home on Winterhaven Drive in Hailey.

Ricaldi-Villajuan later pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a minor child under 16, a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

On Oct. 2, 2007, Judge Barry Wood sentenced Ricaldi-Villajuan to 20 years in prison, with three years to be served before parole eligibility. Wood gave Ricadli-Villajuan credit for 325 days already spent in jail.

The Idaho Department of Corrections reported that Ricaldi-Villajuan was released on parole on Nov. 10, 2009, and turned over to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The federal agency told the Idaho Mountain Express that Ricaldi-Villajuan was deported to Peru on Nov. 22, 2009.

"It's a tragedy that this child has been victimized by people close to her," Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said Tuesday. "This underscores how important it is for parents to know who their children are staying with and with whom they come in contact when the parent is not around. It is a parent's duty to protect their children and one cannot leave their safety to chance."

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said he has referred the situation to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

"I did contact Health and Welfare to ask for some intervention with this family to prevent a situation where it happens again and to ask for help for the child," Gunter said.

Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said the department is prohibited from publicly discussing specific cases, but added that the department is only able to directly intervene if the abuser is a family member because then the threat to a child is seen as more "immediate."

"In a third-party case, it's entirely a police issue unless it appears a parent is not protecting a child," Shanahan said. "Our only other involvement would be to try to find resources to help the child."

Idaho law requires that parents or guardians provide protection for children in their care. According to Blaine County court records, no court cases have been filed regarding protection of the girl.

Terry Smith:

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