- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

TAOS, N.M. (AP) - A man arrested in three cases involving alleged sexual assaults on children and who was released twice now may remain in jail until his trial after an outcry over how authorities have handled his cases.

Raymond Hernandez, 29, of Questa, New Mexico, is scheduled to appear Wednesday before a state district judge for a detention hearing where prosecutors will seek to have him held without bail.

Hernandez was first arrested Jan. 14, after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl and battering another after allegedly giving the girls alcohol at a home in Penasco. He was released on a $10,000 bond.

Two days later, he was arrested again and charged with raping a 19-month-old girl on the same day and location as the previous case. He was released on a $20,000 bond.

Taos County Undersheriff Steve Miera told the Taos News Hernandez then surrendered to State Police on Jan 28 at a bail bondsman’s office after another warrant was issued in connection with an alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl around the same time as the other two cases.

The last charge was dismissed over a lack of evidence but it didn’t stop residents from asking why Taos Magistrate Court Judge Ernest Ortega released him twice. They also questioned the decisions made by the office of the 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos.

Administrative Office of the Courts director Artie Pepin said Hernandez was released in the first two cases because prosecutors didn’t ask a magistrate judge to hold him.

“Judge Ortega imposed the most severe pretrial restrictions on Mr. Hernandez that were available to the magistrate court judge, including electronic monitoring and 24/7 house arrest at a relative’s home in a different town than the alleged victims,” Pepin said in a statement. “The judge did not have the option to detain Mr. Hernandez while awaiting trial.”

Deputy District Attorney Timothy Hasson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Hernandez has been in jail since he was arrested on Jan. 28 and indicted in the case involving the 13-year-old girl.

Confusion over the cases led to some published reports that New Mexico authorities had launched a statewide search for Hernandez and that he may have fled to southern Colorado.

Defense attorney Tomas Rey Benavidez said his client was never on the run and has complied with all requests from law enforcement. “When he found out about his last warrant, he was under house arrest and had a GPS ankle monitor on,” Benavidez said. “He turned himself in.”

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