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County dismisses charges against hanged inmate

February 14, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

Charges will be dismissed against a county jail inmate who hung himself in the jail Saturday while on trial for lewd and lascivious acts.

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

Jurors met briefly with Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman on Tuesday morning, where he informed them Sotelo had died and dismissed the jurors.

Monday was not a scheduled trial day.

Sotelo and jurors heard testimony Friday from a 7-year-old girl about the alleged molestations by Sotelo, which reportedly occurred over six or seven months.


A videotaped interview with the girl at Children's Hospital in San Diego also was shown to the jury.

County Chief Deputy Coroner Sgt. Rick Macken said neither Sotelo's cellmate nor a doctor who had recently examined Sotelo had seen anything to indicate Sotelo planned to kill himself.

He was responding appropriately to conversation and didn't appear to be depressed, Macken said.

A correctional officer took Sotelo's cellmate out of the cell for a visit Saturday about 2:20 p.m. An officer and the inmate returned to the cell about 3 p.m. and found Sotelo hanging, Macken said.

The cellmate had seen Sotelo reading a book and writing something before he left for his visit. Macken said an undated prayer to St. Jude was atop some of Sotelo's personal and court papers, but there was nothing to indicate when that prayer was written. No suicide note was left, Macken said.

Macken expressed concern for the victim in the case.

"The most concern is with the victim, that she not blame herself for Sotelo's death," Macken said.

It would be easy for a child to feel she were to blame for such a death, Macken said.

"If she has a really supportive, really aware family, they'll support her emotionally. It's not her fault," Macken 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.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen has said the girl told her mother about the 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 at least two other girls.

Staff Writer Marcy Misner can be reached at 337-3441.

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