A 10-year-old girl reportedly could not finish testifying in a child-sex-abuse case because she "broke down crying to where she almost started hyperventilating," prosecutors said.
The child was testifying against Lehi day-care owner Alfredo Vargas in a preliminary hearing Monday at 4th District Court for multiple sex-abuse charges.
Prosecutors dropped charges related to the 10-year-old's allegations rather than continue her testimony, said deputy Utah County attorney Craig Johnson.
"I wasn't willing to go any further with her because of her emotional response," Johnson said. He said the girl reported in interviews that she was molested by Vargas.
Vargas, 44, was bound over for trial on 15 first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child in connection to allegations he molested four other girls, ages 1 through 8 at his day care, Little Bears Academy at 751 W. 700 South in Lehi, since June 2011.
Ten misdemeanor counts of lewdness were dismissed after the girls' testimony did not reflect earlier allegations the man urinated in front of them with the bathroom door open, Johnson said.
Ten of the abuse charges stem from allegations of a 5-year-old that Vargas "picked at" her genitals on a daily basis for about a month and a half, Johnson said.
The girl's 8-year-old sister said Vargas touched her beneath her underwear at least twice in the same time frame. The sister also testified that Vargas touched a 1-year-old client under her diaper.
The youngest witness, a 3-year-old girl, claimed she was fondled "at least once," Johnson said.
"She is the first 3-year-old we've been able to actually have testify on a sex-abuse case," Johnson said. "It's really remarkable that she was able to articulate what happened."
Defense attorney Stephen Frazier noted that the girls' accounts have changed since the interviews that led to the charges.
"Half of them were dismissed," Frazier said. "â¦ I think there are going to be some credibility issues. Some of these allegations wereâ¦ a bit more than a year old."
Johnson said he thinks the jury will take into account the girls' ages and be more forgiving of inconsistencies.
"It only makes sense that the kids are going to focus on different things and remember different things," Johnson said. "They've been in counseling for nine months. We can imagine they have gone through some sort of closure trying to get past thisâ¦ and naturally want to block out some things. Any time there is a trial with a lot of testimony from children, it's unpredictable."
Taken altogether, the girls' testimony "paints a picture of rampant sexual abuse at this day care," Johnson said.
Frazier said much of the testimony construed innocent acts, such as diaper changing, as abuse. "I think it's going to be clear that did not happen in this case," he said.