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Stephen Delacruz pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight sex crimes against his sister

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. – The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that Stephen Delacruz has pleaded guilty to eight aggravated sex crimes against his sister.

Delacruz pleaded guilty to the following charges on May 14, 2024:

  • Three counts of forcible rape under PC 261(a)(2).
  • Three counts of PC 287(c)(2)(a) – forced oral copulation
  • Two counts of PC 289(a)(1) – Sexual penetration by foreign object

During his plea, Delacruz also admitted to the special allegation that his sister was under 18 years old at the time of the charged crimes, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

“Samantha was incredibly courageous, courageous and simply never gave up,” said District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, who prosecuted the case. “Despite numerous setbacks and delays, she continued to fight for justice and for her voice to be heard in court. Because of her determination to hold her brother accountable for these egregious crimes, the legal process ultimately worked.”

The conviction ends a legal process that began in 2019 when the sexual assault survivor walked into Oxnard police and reported that her brother had raped her when she was 8 years old, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office detailed.

Initially, Delacruz was tried in juvenile court because he was 14 and 15 at the time of the crime, but then-chief prosecutor Erik Nasarenko fought to have the case moved to adult court, arguing that the abuse required significant sophistication and planning and that The crimes were particularly violent, said the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Delacruz isolated his sister in her Oxnard home, threatened to kill her if she ever reported the crimes, and displayed a knife before the sexual assaults in 2001 and 2002.

The juvenile court agreed to transfer the case, but a 2022 change to California’s juvenile court transfer criteria required courts to “determine by clear and convincing evidence that the minor is unsuitable for rehabilitation” through the juvenile justice system , which details Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2023, a different Ventura County Superior Court judge ruled that Delacruz was eligible for transfer under the new criteria, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said.

Delacruz then exercised his right to appeal the transfer to the California Court of Appeals, which upheld the transfer order in November 2023, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Delacruz waived his appeal rights when he pleaded guilty in May of this year, meaning he is barred from further appeals in the case.

Delacruz is currently scheduled for a sentencing hearing on June 27, 2024 in Ventura County Superior Court Courtroom 24.

All eight charges are considered violent felonies under California law and the district attorney intends to seek a 30-year prison sentence, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said.

“This is a day I thought would never come and I am grateful that this violent criminal will no longer be a threat to our community,” Samantha said. “I owe a great debt of gratitude to District Attorney Nazarenko for sticking with the case and for his tireless support in my fight for justice. I would also like to express my gratitude to the entire District Attorney’s Office who work so hard to bring justice to victims and to protect our county.

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