CROWN POINT — A trial got underway Tuesday for Leobardo Nunez Jr. in the molestation of a 7-year-old girl two years ago at a residence in Lake Station.
Nunez, 28, is charged in Lake Criminal Court with child molestation, a level 1 felony, and child molestation, a level 4 felony. He is accused of groping his then girlfriend's daughter the night of Aug. 13, 2016, at their residence in the 3600 block of Kansas Street. The girl's mother reported the alleged abuse to authorities two weeks later after she found blood in her daughter's urine.
The girl, now 9, testified Tuesday Nunez crept into the living room that night while she having a sleepover with her cousins.
“He woke me up by poking me in my privates,” she said.
She said she recognized Nunez by his hair and face, despite the darkness.
Nunez was at one point the youngest inmate in state prison after he was convicted at age 14 of reckless homicide. He was charged in that case with fatally shooting a 23-year-old Hammond man in October 2003. He was initially charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to the homicide offense and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison.
Nunez pleaded guilty in May to intimidation and operating a vehicle while intoxicated in an unrelated case. He was sentenced to 21 months in Lake County Jail for those offenses.
Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Burke said in opening statements Tuesday an 11-year-old girl would testify at trial Nunez had also rubbed her legs on the same night as the other girl's alleged abuse. The touching made her so frightened she spent the rest of the night hiding in a closet, according to Burke.
“These allegations are serious,” Burke said. “What happened to these girls shouldn't happen to anyone.”
Defense attorney John Cantrell questioned the veracity of the 9-year-old girl's memory in opening statements. He said she told police the 11-year-old girl witnessed her abuse, though that girl denied she saw anything. He said without physical evidence, jurors would need to rely on the girls' statements to find Nunez guilty.
“Their stories don't match up because it didn't happen,” Cantrell said.