Conflicting accounts emerge in sex-crime trial
A female housekeeper testified Wednesday she would have rather have jumped off the balcony on which she was trapped than be rescued by a man she accused of making sexual advances toward her.
Her testimony ran counter to that of suspect Luis Santiago-Narvaez, who is on trial in Pitkin County District Court for felony charges of unlawful sexual contact and second-degree burglary.
Santiago-Narvaez claimed he didn’t intend to pursue the woman sexually, although he did ask her for her phone number.
Testimony from the alleged victim and the defendant highlighted the second day of the jury trial in which both the defense and prosecution rested their cases. Jury instructions and closing arguments are set to begin at 9 a.m. today (Thursday, June 4), with Judge Gail Nichols presiding over the trial. Each charge carries a state prison sentence of four to 12 years with a conviction.
The 32-year-old woman, a single mother of two, recalled the events of Nov. 6, when she was cleaning a Basalt home. She was alone and had entered the master room’s balcony to clean the windows. After she shut the sliding door, it locked behind her. And she didn’t have her cellphone with her.
That was at approximately 12:30 p.m. It wasn’t until after 5:15 p.m. — when Santiago-Narvaez pulled his Honda into the home’s driveway and he heard her cries for help — that she was freed from her ordeal on the balcony.
Santiago-Narvaez, of Glenwood Springs (The Aspen Times erroneously reported Wednesday he lives in Carbondale), was there because he worked on a home construction site next door. He testified he went there to pick up an auxiliary cord, but his errand was preempted by the woman’s plight.
He went through the home’s unlocked front door and upstairs, then opened the sliding door and let her inside.
“As soon as he opened the door, I said, ‘Thank you, God sent you,’” the accuser recalled. “I was shaking and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting me in.’”
At that time the two were in the master bedroom, which neither side disputed. But what transpired after that is the crux of the both sides’ case.
The alleged victim said Santiago-Narvaez hugged her after she was brought in, but she did not reciprocate. Santiago-Narvaez said she initiated the hug, which lasted up to 45 seconds, because she was cold from being outside for so long.
The alleged victim testified that he pulled her toward the bed in the master room. He also grabbed her butt, she said.
The woman said she thanked him again and escorted him down the stairs — she was behind him with her hand on his shoulders — but he kept persisting when the reached the bottom stairwell.
She said he grabbed her breasts and then asked for her phone number.
“Would you have rather been stuck on the balcony a few more hours that day than what happened to you?” asked prosecutor Matthew Barrett.
“I would have rather jumped,” she replied, after previously saying she was afraid of heights.
Santiago-Narvaez is married with two children, aged 2 and 4, he said. Aided by a translator, he testified that he cannot read or write Spanish.
He denied the woman’s allegations that he tried to push her on the bed, and said he accidentally brushed her breasts after she removed his hand from her shoulder when they were at the bottom of the stairwell.
“So it’s her fault that your hand accidentally touched her chest?” Barrett asked him.
“Like I told the (police) officer, I never wanted to intentionally touch her, never,” he responded.
Barrett also pounced on Santiago-Narvaez for being a husband looking to make strides with the housekeeper.
“Do you generally ask women who aren’t your wife for their phone number if you don’t believe they have an interest in you?”
“Honestly,” replied Santiago-Narvaez, “this had never happened before. I don’t know.
Santiago-Narvaez’s attorney, Ted Hess, asked him a round of questions about whether he was seeking sexual gratification, arousal or abuse when he touched her butt or breasts. Santiago-Narvaez said that wasn’t his intention.
Basalt police also testified that Santiago-Narvaez, during an interview, held steadfast that he didn’t touch her private parts. He later admitted to touching them, but said the contact was incidental, police said. Sgt. Aaron Munch said the woman was crying and shaking when he initially interviewed her.
“Even as she spoke, her voice trembled,” he said.
The 12-member, two-alternate jury, comprised of seven men and seven women, also were shown a video recording of the police interrogation of Santiago-Narvaez.
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