Closing arguments in Soliz trial started today

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Closing arguments were expected to be heard this morning in the trial of Manuel Soliz, an Alice man charged with indecency with a child.

On Wednesday, the jury heard testimony from the alleged victim in the case, a 13-year-old girl.

The victim testified she and her parents were living in a home on Fifth Street in June 2006, when the incident is alleged to have occurred.

The home was owned by Soliz, who also lived there with his wife, his two teenage stepsons and his 13-year-old daughter.

The alleged victim testified that while she was sleeping alone in a bedroom of the home in the early morning hours of June 24, 2006, she woke up and discovered Soliz by the bed, touching her inappropriately.

"I was in shock," the young girl said, in a quiet voice.

The girl testified Soliz forced her to touch his genitals, at which point she ran from the room and contacted Soliz's daughter, who was in a second room with Soliz's wife, and informed her of what had happened.

She also told her father a short time later, and her father contacted the Alice Police Department.

In his testimony before the jury Wednesday, the victim's father told the jury he entered the house shortly after the incident is alleged to have occurred, and witnessed Soliz outside of the girl's room.

"He looked scared, like he had done something wrong," the father said.

The father then said he noticed his daughter crying, and she told him Soliz had touched her inappropriately.

Prosecutor Lee Persohn also called to the stand Det. Tony Aguilar, an investigator with the Alice Police Department. Aguilar testified the victim's father called police immediately after his daughter informed him of the alleged assault.

In his cross-examination of Aguilar, defense attorney Juan Martinez Gonzalez focused on Aguilar's investigation techniques, and questioned why the detective did not take physical evidence, such as fingerprints, bedding or the clothes the girl was wearing from the scene. Aguilar testified he had not entered the home during his investigation, and that physical evidence would not have been reliable because Soliz lived in the home.

The jury also heard testimony from Carol McLaughlin, a sexual assault nurse examiner with Driscoll Children's Hospital. McLaughlin testified she examined the victim in the case on June 26, 2006, two days after the assault is alleged to have occurred.

During her examination of the victim, the young girl told McLaughlin that Soliz had touched her inappropriately and forced her to touch him inappropriately, McLaughlin testified.

McLaughlin also testified that although she found no external injuries on the victim, she did record bruising to the girl's genitals consistent with a sexual assault.

After the state rested its case, Martinez Gonzalez called a number of witnesses to the stand who testified the room in which the victim was sleeping was too dark to allow anyone to see well enough to identify an individual when the lights were out.

Those witnesses included both of Soliz's step-sons, his adult step-daughter and his wife.

Debbie Soliz, the defendant's wife, also testified she heard the victim come into the room and speak to her daughter, but she did not appear upset and did not mention any assault.

Following that testimony, Soliz took the stand in his defense, and denied touching the young girl.

"I didn't do it," Soliz told the jury.

The defense also called two friends of Soliz as character witnesses to the stand Wednesday, and both testified Soliz had a good reputation in the community. In his cross-examination of those witnesses, Persohn informed them Soliz has four prior convictions for charges of driving under the influence, and asked them to re-evaluate their assessment of him.

Both stood by their original statements.

Following the announcement that the defense rested its case, the prosecution called the 13-year-old daughter of Soliz to the stand as a rebuttal witness. Testifying through tears, the girl said the victim had run into her room during the night the incident is alleged to have occurred.

"She said my dad had touched her," Soliz's daughter said.

Closing arguments in the case were scheduled to begin this morning.