Lehi man accused of molesting children ordered to stand trial on half of charges against him
PROVO — A Lehi man has been ordered to stand trial on charges stemming from allegations that he sexually abused small children while watching them at his home.
Alfredo Enrique Vargas, 44, was charged with 20 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, and 10 counts of lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor. He was ordered to stand trial on 15 of those charges — all counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child — by 4th District Judge James Taylor Monday as the other 15 charges were dismissed during a preliminary hearing.
Vargas has been accused of molesting young girls at the Little Bears Daycare, which operates out of his home at 751 W. 700 South, since June 2011. Police say while Vargas' wife primarily operates the business, he ran it by himself for about a month when she temporarily left the country.
Three young girls, ages 3, 5, and 8, took the stand and testified that Vargas touched their "private parts" and those of a 1-year-old child as well on at least one occasion. The 5-year-old girl said Vargas touched her inappropriately multiples times.
But Utah County prosecutor Craig Johnson said all of the lewdness counts were dismissed after the young alleged victims testified that Vargas had not, in fact, urinated multiple times in their view, as was originally reported. One aggravated sexual abuse charge was dropped when one girl said she was only abused once, not twice as she initially stated.
Four aggravated sexual abuse counts were also dismissed after a 10-year-old girl stated that Vargas had only touched her on her back under her shirt, not the other places she initially reported.
"When she came in she was distraught, she was crying and was very emotional," Johnson said. "She testified through tears that all he did was put his hand up her shirt and rub her back every other day for a year. ... Because that's what her testimony was, I dismissed those counts."
The girl later left the courtroom when she began to hyperventilate and told the judge she couldn't breathe, Johnson said. Another aggravated sexual abuse count was dismissed when a 3-year-old girl said she was abused only once, not twice as originally believed.
Johnson said he was meticulous in his questioning in an effort to demonstrate that Vargas' actions weren't "innocent touches" that are sometimes necessary when changing a child's diaper or giving a child a bath.
"I was very careful to weigh that and looked at the totality of the situation before deciding what to file," Johnson said. "Touching while changing a diaper — if that's the only thing I saw, I would not have filed the charges."
In this case, multiple victims told similar stories spanning a similar timeframe, he said.
Vargas' next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 9. It is anticipated he will enter a plea at that time.
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