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UPDATE: 2 arrested in alleged series of SCV child sex assaults

Posted: April 13, 2016 11:38 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2016 6:41 p.m.
Photos of two sex crime suspects released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Special Victims Bureau show Francisco Avendano (left) and Jacqueline Wadsworth. Photos of two sex crime suspects released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Special Victims Bureau show Francisco Avendano (left) and Jacqueline Wadsworth.
Photos of two sex crime suspects released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Special Victims Bureau show Francisco Avendano (left) and Jacqueline Wadsworth.
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Detectives who arrested a Santa Clarita Valley couple on suspicion of sexually assaulting children fear more alleged young victims may be out there — in addition to the eight alleged victims they say they’ve already identified.

Francisco Avendano, 42, and Jacqueline Wadsworth, 32, of Newhall were arrested March 31 on suspicion of having committed lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, arrest records show.

Each suspect remains in custody with bail set for Avendano at $2.02 million and for Wadsworth at $200,000.

Both suspects pleaded not guilty April 4 to the charges filed against them, said Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.

Since the couple’s arrest, detectives have identified six more alleged child victims in addition to the two alleged victims who sparked the initial arrests, said Sgt. Brian Hudson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.

As a result of the additional alleged victims, prosecutors amended their original felony complaint against Avendano Tuesday, according to a copy of the complaint.

Avendano and Wadsworth are scheduled to appear in court Thursday to be arraigned on the amended complaint.

Wadsworth and Avendano each face two felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 and one felony count of lewd acts upon a child who is 14, Santiago said.

Additionally, Avendano faces six more felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 and one felony count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14.

Prosecutors allege the sexual assault of at least three of Avendano’s young victims — both boys and girls — took place as long ago as 2001.

“Our fear is that there are other children victimized by this couple,” Hudson said. “It’s a horrific story.”

Hudson said the couple lived in multiple areas of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“They lived in Canyon Country at a mobile home park on the 30000 block of Sand Canyon Road, and they’ve lived in Castaic,” he said. “(Avendano) would befriend neighborhood children and the friends of family members, and then sexually assault them.”

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services took Avendano’s children into protective custody on the day of the arrest, Hudson said.

Detectives are now seeking the public’s help in identifying potential sexual assault victims in the Santa Clarita Valley, Hudson said.

The investigation began earlier this year into reports the suspects were involved in the molestation of several children at several locations in the Santa Clarita Valley area, he said in a news release issued Wednesday.

Based on information developed over the course of the investigation, detectives believe other children may have been sexually assaulted during the past 10 years, Hudson said.

Anyone with additional information regarding the investigation is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273.

Anonymous tips may be reported to “Crime Stoppers” at 800-222-TIPS (8477), texted to TIPLA at CRIMES (274637), or reported at the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

 

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