Idaho Falls man charged with sexual abuse of nine-year-old girl

Crime Watch

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IDAHO FALLS — A local man recently appeared in court after suspicious messages were found between him and a nine-year-old girl.

Mario Hernandez, 45, appeared in court on Dec. 22 on one felony charge of sexual abuse of a minor under 16. The charge came after the victim’s mother found Facebook messages between Hernandez and her nine-year-old daughter.

Court documents show a conversation between the victim and Hernandez had been going on for several days. Court documents show that throughout the conversation, Hernandez would say things like, “hey my girl,” “Hello sweety,” “I love you,” “Girlfriend,” “How are you today babe” and “hurry up and grow up so I can married (sic) you.” He’s also accused of calling her “my sweet little love,” “my little girlfriend” and “my little angel.”

At one point, documents state Hernandez messaged the girl to take a shower and send him a picture when she was done. She reportedly told him that she would and he responded, “Ok that’s good I want my girlfriend smelling good.”

According to court documents, Hernandez told police he told her to do that because she hadn’t showered in a couple days. He didn’t give an answer to why he asked her to send him a picture when she was done.

The messages between Hernandez and the victim began on Aug. 8, 2017, and continued through Sept. 12, 2017.

Documents show the victim visited Hernandez’s home to play with his children and sometimes spent the night. Hernandez’s partner found the messages between him and the victim and moved out.

Hernandez bought the victim clothing and shoes, according to investigators. He would take her on walks with his family and out to dinner with them. He told police he treated the victim like he would treat any of his children.

During a forensic interview, the victim reportedly told authorities Hernandez would hug her from behind and sometimes cup her breasts. She said he would kiss her “like a husband would do to his wife.”

On the occasions when the victim slept over, she told police he would come into the bedroom early in the morning, get into bed with her, hug her and then leave.

“It appears that Mario is grooming (the victim) for something in the future and this not what I would regard as a normal relationship between a nine-year-old girl and her 45-year-old male neighbor,” Idaho Falls Police Department Detective Rome Stiffler said in court documents.

An arrest warrant was issued for Hernandez on Nov. 22. He remains in the Bonneville County Jail and is expected to appear in court again on Jan. 9.