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’Busco child molesting case going to trial

CHURUBUSCO — A Huntington man charged with molesting three young children in Churubusco is set for a two-day jury trial next week.

Michael Monnier, 33, is facing five counts of child molesting.

According to a case report by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, the alleged crimes took place between January 2008 and December 2009. The children were elementary-aged at the time — now teenagers.

Monnier appeared in Whitley County Circuit Court Monday for his final pretrial conference, and surprised his public defender Anthony Churchward with a request to add a witness — which would force the trial to be continued.

Churchward said Monnier wanted to call an ex-wife as a witness — mostly to speak to Monnier’s character — as she was not with Monnier when the alleged crimes took place — but he didn’t know about the potential witness until during Monday’s court hearing.

Churchward noted that the trial will be a “battle of credibility,” and that having the ex-wife as a witness could be helpful to the case.

“She has no information on the allegation,” said Whitley County Prosecutor D.J. Sigler. “As a character witness, I have no objection, but I do object to a continuance.”

Judge James Heuer denied the continuance and ordered that the jury trial will go on.

The trial begins Feb. 15 with jury selection in the morning, and opening statements in the late morning or early afternoon.

Man sentenced to 12 years for rape

A Columbia City man who admitted to rape last month was sentenced in Whitley Circuit Court Monday.

Gustavo Munoz, 42, faced charges of sexual battery, child seduction, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and rape, after an incident last spring.

Heuer gave Munoz a 12-year sentence to be served in its entirety at the Indiana Department of Corrections.

As part of a plea agreement, all but the rape charge were dismissed.

“This is the most vile act on a young woman by a man who was in a position of trust,” said Sigler. “He fed her alcohol until she blacked out and raped her in her room.”

Public defender Churchward contended that this was Munoz’s first criminal offense of his life, and he admitted to his actions, rather than bringing the case to trial where the victim would have to be put through the trauma of testifying.

“He may have accepted responsibility, but he was caught,” Sigler said. “His DNA was on the victim. There was no real question of guilt. The victim’s age, youth and inexperience have been taken from her. She has a sentence for the rest of her life. I hope the impact fades.”

Munoz apologized for his actions before Heuer made his decision.

“Rape is a horrible crime that will effect the victim for the rest of her life. There’s nothing we can do to undo or change that,” Heuer said. “It is perplexing to see no criminal history at age 42, then to commit a serious offense like this.”

As part of the plea agreement, the maximum sentence was lowered from 16 years to 12.

The judge also noted that 48 hours after his release from the DOC, Munoz must register as a sex offender.

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