BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. – The New Mexico foster father at the center of a high-profile sexual abuse case has pleaded guilty. KRQE first brought you the allegations against Clarence Garcia in a KRQE investigative story in 2018. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to those charges, but won’t spend any time in prison.

Garcia was a foster parent in Bernalillo County from 1999 until his license was terminated in 2018. In 2018, one of his foster daughters and victims told a school counselor Garcia was touching her inappropriately. This led to an extensive CYFD investigation.

Garcia was later charged with sexually abusing six girls in his care. “Beginning when she was 14, J.H. – an intellectually and mentally delayed young woman – was continuously raped by Clarence Garcia for 16 months while in his supposed care,” said the victim’s attorney. 

On Garcia’s 66th birthday, he pled guilty to seven sexual abuse charges. Two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third degree, being a person in a position of authority, and five counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third-degree child under 13.

Each count carries a basic sentence of 6 years in prison; he was looking at 42 years. The prosecutor in this case, Rebekah Reyes, explained in court why this plea agreement is in the best interest of Garcia’s victims. “Knowing how hard it is to get a jury to convict on child sex abuse cases, especially when we’re dealing with severance, this plea was very much in the best interest of these kids so that they wouldn’t have to go through the process of a trial,” the prosecutor said.

In this case, Garcia won’t be serving any jail time. Judge Britt Baca-Miller said in court, “I will fully suspend that sentence on the condition that you complete 5 to 20 years of supervised probation at initial sentencing which is today.”

The attorney representing two of Garcia’s victims told the court how the sexual abuse they endured from Garcia changed their lives forever. Kate Ferlic said, “M.R. is now 15 years old and continues to struggle with the impact of the abuse she suffered. Not a day goes by M.R. is not haunted by the horrors experienced by the hands of Clarence Garcia.” Ferlic is hopeful Garcia’s sentencing will help improve the state’s foster care system moving forward. 

Clarence Garcia is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Also, how the cases were broken up, if this went to trial, jurors would only be able to hear about one abuse case per trial. Under Garcia’s conditions of probation, he must complete a sex offender program, pay restitution, and cannot live with or have unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18.