Charges amended in foster father rape case

Date: 2010-04-06
Source: dailyme.com

By ELIZABETH PIAZZA
THE DAILY TIMES

Apr. 6--AZTEC -- More charges were filed against a former foster father who confessed last week to six counts of second-degree criminal sexual contact against a minor.

Todd Mortensen, 45, faces two additional charges after San Juan County Sheriff's deputies on Monday interviewed the 12-year-old victim and amended the arrest warrant to include two charges of first-degree criminal sexual penetration, Sheriff's Capt. Tim Black said. The victim caught an assault on videotape with the help of an adult family member.

Mortensen, who along with his wife, Lisa, fostered as many as 50 children during the last decade, faced 85 counts of criminal sexual penetration against a minor in 2004 when a different foster daughter made allegations of sexual abuse. Those charges were dismissed in 2005.

Mortensen, in an unusual move Thursday, visited the District Attorney's office with his defense attorney to confess to the six recent assaults of sexual contact. The two additional charges denote sexual penetration, or intercourse.

The incidents reportedly took place between March 22 and 30 in Mortensen's home, where the 12-year-old lived as a foster child.

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department removed the 12-year-old and two other teen girls from the home.

Deputies and prosecutors continue to speak with potential victims, including an interview with an 18-year-old woman scheduled for today, Black said.

Despite Mortensen's move to confess to prosecutors before the

arrest warrant was issued, no plea arrangements were made, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said.

Mortensen is not facing the previous 85 counts dismissed by prosecutors in 2005, but the District Attorney's Office is reviewing the case to determine whether it will be reopened.

"The question is largely, can the case be resurrected based on what the (2003) victim is able to do," O'Brien said.

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges could be filed at a later date, because of the vulnerable mental state of the victim.

"At the time it was coming up for trial there were some issues, personal and private issues with the victim," former prosecutor Lisa Kuykendall said. "The parents and I met and talked extensively and felt like it would be more detrimental to try to force her to testify."

Kuykendall no longer works in San Juan County.

Mortensen was accused of repeatedly raping a 15-year-old foster daughter between March 1 and May 30, 2003. The girl was placed in Mortensen's home in 2002 after her adoptive family encountered some problems, according to police records.

He also was accused of threatening the girl with a gun.

Police believed Mortensen used his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to influence the girl. He allegedly told her intercourse was allowed because he was mistakenly listed as her spouse on her baptism certificate, according to police records.

Kuykendall was uncertain if Mortensen was licensed as a foster parent with the Children, Youth and Families Department when he was arrested in 2004.

While DNA evidence retrieved from semen found in the victim's underwear indicated the perpetrator was Mortensen, it did not point to him conclusively, making the victim's testimony even more vital to the case, Kuykendall said.

"Our concern was that he was a foster parent and potentially there was another victim," Kuykendall said.

Sometimes the decision is in the best interest for the victim while not in the best interest of justice, she said.

Mortensen is being held at San Juan County Adult Detention Center. His bond was raised from $58,000 to $500,000 cash-only after the new charges were added.

If convicted on all eight charges, Mortensen faces as many as 128 years in prison, with 18 years mandatory for each of the first-degree charges.

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