A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday convicted a 63-year-old Metairie man of sexual battery of a 5-year-old girl who lived near his Rye Street apartment, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office said.
Mario Chavez faces 25 to 99 years in prison for bringing the child to his apartment and committing the crime on June 20, 2014.
Chavez, a Honduran immigrant who needed an interpreter to understand the testimony at his trial, was linked to the crime through DNA evidence and witness testimony, Connick’s office said.
Jurors were shown a video recording of a 2014 interview of the child by Erika Dupépé, executive director of the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Center, in which the girl said Chavez abused her in his bathroom and bedroom. She said she kept telling him to stop, but he didn’t listen and ordered her not to tell anyone.
The girl, however, told her mother, who found that her underwear was not on properly.
The mother testified Wednesday that Chavez denied abusing her daughter when she confronted him about it, but she noticed her daughter recoiled when he tried to touch her head while they talked, Connick’s office said.
Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Terri Danna testified that the girl was able to accurately describe the bedding, nightstand, calendar and a crucifix in Chavez’s apartment.
The child’s mother said she found part of a pubic hair in the girl’s underwear, and forensic tests could not exclude Chavez even though the hair’s DNA profile matched less than 1 percent of the population.
Chavez, who continued to deny the accusation, had been held awaiting trial in lieu of $250,000 bail.
The jury deliberated about 38 minutes.
Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court will announce Chavez’s sentence April 21.
Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Angad Ghai prosecuted the case.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.