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County jail inmate found hanged while awaiting trial

February 12, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

A county jail inmate on trial for lewd and lascivious acts hung himself in the county jail Saturday.

Friday was the first day of trial for Elias Garcia Sotelo, 26, of El Centro, who was found hanging in his cell of the county jail about 3 p.m. Saturday, officials said.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen opened Friday's trial with testimony from a 7-year-old girl about the alleged molestations, which allegedly occurred over six or seven months. County Sheriff's Office Deputy Jerry DeMorst also testified and a videotaped interview with the girl at Children's Hospital in San Diego was shown to the jury.

Court is not in session today and information on whether jurors had been notified of the death or would be brought to court Tuesday morning to be notified of Sotelo's death was not available this morning.


"Our thoughts are with the victim and her family because she is definitely going to be affected by this," Owen said.

Owen had not spoken with the girl today but had spoken with other family members.

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jesse Obeso said a correctional officer removed Sotelo's cellmate from their cell about 2:20 p.m. to see a visitor. The correctional officer found Sotelo hanging from a bedsheet when he returned the cellmate to the cell, Obeso said.

Sotelo had been charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a minor with force, sodomy with a person under 14, sexual penetration with a foreign object and oral copulation in connection with the girl, then age 6.

Owen has said the girl told her mother about the alleged molestations and the county Sheriff's Office began investigating the allegations. Sotelo had been in the county jail since Aug. 13.

Owen said Sotelo, who had a prior statutory rape conviction, also was being investigated by the Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office in connection with alleged molestations of three other girls.

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