8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo announced this afternoon that a 42 year-old former minister has been convicted by a Newberry County jury of sexually abusing a 12 year-old girl. Mario Valerio Gonzalez Hernandez was found guilty of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree on Thursday afternoon after a weeklong trial. Circuit Court Judge Eugene Griffith sentenced Hernandez to 16 years in state prison following the verdict.
On June 29, 2013 the Newberry Police Department responded to a report from the child’s mother after she walked into her daughter’s bedroom and found Hernandez on top of the girl on the floor beside the bed. The victim disclosed to the investigators that Hernandez had performed sex acts on her numerous times since he had moved into her family’s home. When questioned by the investigators, Hernandez denied assaulting the child but told them that he was a man and “had urges.” Hernandez threatened the child not to tell anyone of the abuse, and that no one would believe her over him. The victim and her family attended the church that Hernandez pastored at the time of the abuse.
Deputy Solicitor Dale Scott and Assistant Solicitor Taylor Daniel prosecuted the case for the State, with Scott calling Hernandez a real life “wolf in sheep’s clothing” in his closing argument to the jury. Judge Griffith sentenced Hernandez to 16 years incarceration, out of maximum possible sentence of 20 years. Hernandez must serve at least 85% of this sentence before he is eligible for parole, and will be deported to Guatemala immediately following his release from State custody.
Solicitor Stumbo praised the outstanding work of his prosecutors in seeking justice for the child victim, as well as the outstanding investigative work by Detective Kevin Goodman of the Newberry Police Department. “This brave young lady has finally been able to get some measure of justice and closure thanks to our prosecution team and law enforcement investigators who worked this case,” said Stumbo following the verdict on Thursday. “Prosecuting child molesters will continue to be one of the top priorities of my office, and we are glad to announce that another predator has been removed from our community in Newberry County.”