Former Santo Niño health aide accused in three more sex abuse cases

·4 min read

Dec. 31—Former school health aide Robert Apodaca, charged in July with counts accusing him of molesting a boy in 2019, faces 10 new charges, including rape, in three cases alleging sexual abuse of two children and a teen.

Apodaca, 30, most recently worked at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School but resigned in late April amid concerns of misconduct after a fellow employee reported she had discovered him in a dark, locked room with a 9-year-old boy on his lap.

The child's mother contacted New Mexico State Police about the incident, prompting an investigation.

Three months later, Santa Fe police arrested him on three second-degree felony counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor in an unrelated case.

Apodaca was accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old student at Gonzales Community School, one of several public schools in the city where he had worked as a health aide between 2012 and 2020.

An arrest warrant affidavit said the boy also knew Apodaca from a local Jehovah's Witness congregation. The boy's parents discussed their concerns about Apodaca with a church elder, who went to police, the affidavit said, adding Apodaca had spent time with the boy regularly and was accused of grabbing his genitals "approximately a hundred times" over the course of about a year.

The alleged abuse occurred in Apodaca's car, a home and in the nurse's office at Gonzales Community School, the boy told police.

Apodaca remains jailed in the case.

News reports in early September of the allegations against him created controversy at Santo Niño, where parents complained they had not been notified about an investigation into possible abuse of a student after Apodaca's departure in April or his arrest in July on molestation charges. Some called for the removal of Principal Robin Chavez over her silence.

Arrest warrant affidavits filed Friday in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court accuse Apodaca of abusing three other minors and engaging in a pattern of "grooming" behavior, in which an adult builds a personal relationship with a child in preparation for future sexual abuse.

One of the new cases against Apodaca involves the 9-year-old Santo Niño boy, who told investigators in April that Apodaca had offered him special treats and often took him to isolated sites on campus, according to reports. The affidavit says Apodaca faces one count of third-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor.

Two other affidavits detail alleged incidents at Santo Niño, at Boy Scouts of America's Gorham Scout Ranch in Chimayó and in a Santa Fe home.

Both accusers — 9-year-old and 16-year-old boys — came forward in September, the affidavits say.

The younger boy alleged he had several interactions with Apodaca in the nurse's office at Santo Niño in 2020. State police started investigating the allegations Sept. 13, when the boy had a safe house interview at Solace Crisis Treatment Center after disclosing possible abuse to his parents. He described an incident in 2020 in which Apodaca touched him over his clothing and another encounter in which the man touched his genitals under his clothing, the affidavit said.

Apodaca is facing two second-degree counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor and two third-degree counts.

The third affidavit says the 16-year-old boy contacted state police with sexual abuse allegations against Apodaca on Sept. 7.

He was a student at Gonzales Community School and likely at Capital High School when Apodaca was working as a district health aide, according to the affidavit.

The teen initially sought homework help from Apodaca and was hired by him to assist in medical duties at the Gorham Ranch in June and July of 2019. He told state police Apodaca had molested him three times at the ranch by grabbing his genitals while he was sleeping.

Administrators at the ranch did not return messages requesting comment.

The affidavit says the teen told investigators Apodaca had given him food and other gifts, such as video games.

The abuse culminated in June 2020, he said, when Apodaca gave him alcohol and invited him to stay the night at a home near Fort Marcy.

The boy told police he drank four or five bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade until he felt "pretty messed up" and fell asleep on a futon. He woke up later with physical signs he had been sexually assaulted, he said.

Apodaca faces five counts in the case, including second-degree sexual penetration and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting