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Nightmare on Elm Street: Mistrial Called in “Monster Cave” Case

A Menlo Park man accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy is out on bail.

After 12 days of deliberating, jurors could not agree on whether a Menlo Park man accused of molesting his neighbor’s son is guilty or not – again.

Eight deemed him guilty, two found him not guilty, and two couldn’t decide, according to San Mateo County District Attorney’s records.

"When they were brought into the courtroom, they were asked about their ability to reach a verdict," said Karen Guidotti, Chief Criminal Deputy for the County of San Mateo. Jurors said they were having problems arriving at a unanimous verdict, because some of the jurors were not participating in the deliberations, she said.

“It seemed like the jurors had already made up their mind,” Guidotti said of the sentiment surrounding the claims.  Those two jurors were the ones who were undecided, she said. Their inability to agree on a verdict led the courts to declare a mistrial this week. This is the second mistrial declared in the case of the People v. Horacio Carlos Teran.

Teran is a well-funded Menlo Park resident who was charged with five counts of committing lewd acts on a child, according to public records provided by the DA's office.

The child was 10-year-old boy who used to play a game similar to tag with Teran’s son. On multiple occasions, when Teran joined the game and tagged the boy, he would take him to the “monster cave,” which was the man’s back yard, according to District Attorney records. The boy was then instructed to close his eyes and count to twenty. During that time the defendant would fondle the victim, according to the DA’s records.

“They played this game,” admitted Michael Armstrong, Teran’s defense attorney. “But he never touched the boy,” he told Patch.     

The first time the case went to court on Sept. 12, 2012 the case was declared a mistrial, because witness testimony had not been provided to Armstrong, according to the DA’s office. During this year’s trial, the testimony was admitted. 

Cases like this are unusual in Menlo Park, California, which has about 32,000 residents according to the U.S. Census. About 25 percent of those residents are less than 18 years of age. Menlo Park Police records show that three incidents of child molestation were reported in 2010. The next year, that number increased to seven. In 2012, six adults committed lewd acts on children in Menlo Park.

While the original charges against Teran were filed on March 27, 2010, according to Menlo Park Police records, litigation did not begin until a year later.Some people speculate that this is because the allegations of improper conduct with a child are false. Others are not certain and have taken precautions to protect their kids.

In 2011, one of Teran’s neighbors petitioned the courts for a restraining order against him. The conditions of the restraining order were granted, except for the condition to stay away from the schools where her child attends school.  “Respondent's own child attends one of those schools,” reads the case report.  That injunction expires at midnight on Sept. 14, 2014.

The case has since escalated in the public arena. One concerned individual wrote a letter to Teran’s boss at First Republic Securities detailing the case, which jeopardized his status at the company, according to Armstrong. Another person, who commented on a previous Patch article on February 28 said all the allegations are flimsy.

“This case completely fabricated by mother (if she can have this title) using her son as staged victim trying to solve her financial problems by accusing innocent person with highest personal and business integrity,” said Irene Allen, whose relationship to Teran is unknown.

During the entire time, Teran has been on a $50,000 cash bail. 

On March 20, the case was declared a mistrial. The courts will review the case again on April 12 to decide how to proceed.

Also on Patch:

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  • Educator Says Superintendent Created Hostile Work Environment


 

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Alison March 23, 2013 at 10:07 AM
The prosecutor on this case was Melissa Mckowan, who was just disciplined by the California Bar for misconduct towards crime victims and prosecution witnesses. San Francisco Chronicle story here: "Prosecutor in Molest Case Disciplined" : http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Prosecutor-in-molest-case-disciplined-4365009.php There have been numerous complaints about this prosecutor to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe over the years, but he has chosen to ignore them. Let's hope the victim and his family was treated with the respect they deserve and were notified of all continuances and hearings as they are supposed to be, according to the Victim's Rights Bill, Marsy's Law. Sounds like an open and shut case. Why couldn't the DA win it?
Glinda Good March 23, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Alison's comment about the prosecutor is interesting. In this Patch article, the reason given for the first mistrial is that Melissa McKowan did not turn over witness testimony to the defendant's attorney. For me as a California taxpayer, I would like to now how much these 2 mistrials have cost us. On a fact checking note, a quick search of the sanmateocourt.org website turned up that the date the charges were filed was actually January 5, 2012 and not March 27, 2010 as stated in the Patch article. On this website, one can easily click on online services and search case records by the defendant's name. This is also how I found the name of the woman who took out the restraining order. A quick Google search of her name showed that she is the next door neighbor.
Glinda Good March 23, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Alison's link and the comment about the prosecutor are interesting. In this Patch article, the reason given for the first mistrial is that Melissa Mckowan did not turn over witness testimony to the defendant's attorney. For me as a California taxpayer, I would like to know how much these 2 mistrials have cost us.
Glinda Good March 23, 2013 at 05:56 PM
On a fact checking note, a quick search of the sanmateocountycourt.org website turned up the date that the charges were filed was January 5th 2012 and not March 27th, 2010 as stated in the Patch article. On this website, one can easily click on online services and search case records by the defendant's name. This is also how I found the name of the woman who tok out the restraining order and a quick check online search of her name showed that she is the next door neighbor.
Alison March 24, 2013 at 09:58 PM
The prosecutor on the Teran case, Melissa Mckowan, was sued by a crime victim's family in 2010 because they alleged she lied to a judge to get out of trying their case by falsely claiming that the family didn't want the victim to testify. The family also alleges that Mckowan never notified them of any continuances in the two years that the trial was delayed. Victims in the Ayres case and another child molestation case in 2012 also have lodged similar complaints that Mckowan never contacted them about key hearings and developments. If the victim's family in the Teran case also encountered similar problems, they should contact the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, who have just been made aware of the violations of Marsy's law by prosecutor Mckowan on three molestation cases. The victim's family in the Teran case should NOT contact District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, as he has ignored every single complaint from crime victims' families in three cases in the last three years. Here is the link to the San Mateo Daily Journal about the crime victim's family's lawsuit against prosecutor Mckowan for violation of victim's rights: http://archives.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=138152 If the victim's family in the Teran case has any similar complaints, they need to write to each individual member of the San Mateo Supervisors.
Alison April 05, 2013 at 12:18 AM
The original story said that the first mistrial was caused because the prosecutor didn't turn over witness testimony. Why was this information removed?
Glinda Good April 13, 2013 at 12:20 AM
I think that you are on to something here, Allison. According to earlier Patch reporting, the original reason given by the DA's office for the 1st mistrial was that, for the first time, the victim's Mother said that the boy had to seek counseling due to the alleged improper behavior. That does not make much sense to me as a reason for a mistrial and I am surprised that the journalist did not look into it further. Now the reason has been changed in this updated story to reflect what appears to either be an error or misconduct on the part of the DA. Something considered important enough by a judge for there to be due process was not submitted by the DA in the first trial. Doesn't the DA's office have a responsibility to give the real reason for the mistrial in the first place and if it was due to "error" on her part, why isn't she held accountable.
Alison April 14, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Glinda Good, you are on to something, too. Reporter Vanessa: Can you explain the discrepancies in the stories from the DA's office about what caused the FIRST mistrial? And why did your information about it being caused by the reporter failing to turn over witness information disappear from your story here?
Alison April 14, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Ok, I see now that theinformation was not removed about the prosecutor failing to turn over witness testimony. I would still like the reporter to clear up the original story that the first mistrial was caused because the boy had to seek counseling. As Glinda points out, the stories don't jibe. Which is the truth?
Alison October 17, 2013 at 12:29 PM
What's going on with this case? Has a retrial date been sent?

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