Probable cause found to try 18-year-old suspect in rape case

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The Superior Court has found probable cause to try an 18-year-old man accused of raping a 13-year-old in the Jesus is Lord Church restroom.

Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth Govendo found probable cause to try 18-year-old John Timothy Villasis Vergara for sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and sexual assault in the first degree.

Probable cause is a required in order to prosecute a person in criminal court and it is determined by belief that a crime was committed based on facts that can be argued in court.

During his preliminary hearing last Monday, Vergara appeared out of Department of Corrections custody. He appeared with his third-party custodian: his mother and family.

Assistant attorney General James Houston, who represented the government during the preliminary hearing, called Department of Public Safety detective Shannon Dela Cruz to the stand where she testified about interviewing the victim’s mother, the minor witness who allegedly saw Vergara exit the church restroom, and a handful of family friends who reported the incident and found that all their testimonies were consistent with one another.

Vergara’s attorney, Office of the Public Defender’s JP Nogues, cross-examined Dela Cruz and uncovered that, as of Monday, there was no physical evidence in the case. The underwear and shorts that Vergara allegedly removed from the victim had been washed and were not available for testing, and she could not recall whether Vergara’s DNA samples were found following the victim’s physical examination.

In addition, the only witness to the alleged assault could not confirm whether she saw the victim leave the restroom after Vergara because she allegedly retreated back to the church to wait for the victim soon after seeing Vergara exit.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Vergara allegedly raped the victim on two occasions: at a birthday party in Micro Beach back in August 2020, and in the restroom of the Jesus is Lord Church last June 2 during a church anniversary practice.

During an interview with the victim’s mother on June 8, she told DPS investigators that Vergara raped her daughter for the second time in the church’s restroom during a church anniversary practice.

The following day, June 9, a DPS investigator attended a forensic interview with the victim at the Division of Youth Services where she alleged that the second incident happened at around 7pm on June 2.

The first incident that happened on August 2020 was reported at the Commonwealth Health Center on Jan. 25. During an interview with Dr. Heather Taylor, the victim wrote on a paper that when they were celebrating her brother’s birthday at Micro Beach when she went into the ocean with her mother’s friend’s son, Vergara, and the incident happened. That prompted the doctor to report the incident to DPS.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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