SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new lawsuit is shedding light on a 2018 rape case involving a child, and Santa Fe Police are accused of losing key evidence. The lawsuit claims, in part, a detective’s negligence led to prosecutors letting the suspect off with far lesser charges.

“It doesn’t happen often and it’s horrible when it does. When a kit is lost it’s a sad day for that person,” said Connie Monahan.

Monahan is reacting to a graphic crime in Santa Fe, involving the rape of a 4-year-old child. Now a newly-filed lawsuit in that case claims police admit they botched a key part of the investigation. Back in 2018, 23-year-old Enrique Palomino-Loya was arrested, and charged with first-degree criminal sexual penetration of a family member.

According to the lawsuit, investigators gathered a kit from the victim as evidence of the crime. Monahan, who’s spent years working with sexual assault victims, says rape kits are crucial for many cases to move forward through the court process.

“The value of a rape kit is validation of penetration or seminal saliva fluids that were part of the assault,” said Monahan.

However, in Palomino-Loya’s case, that rape kit was never tested and the evidence was eventually lost. Because of that, the lawsuit states that Palomino-Loya was recently able to take a plea deal on lesser charges in the case, that deal involves no jail time.

According to the lawsuit, the City of Santa Fe blames the loss of the rape kit evidence on former Santa Fe Police Detective Paul Ytuarte calling his actions “completely unacceptable.”

The victim’s family is suing the City of Santa Fe, claiming the victim’s civil and constitutional rights were violated.

Santa Fe police refused an interview about the lawsuit but sent a statement saying the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation. KRQE also reached out to the Santa Fe mayor’s office and the attorney for the family who filed the lawsuit, but KRQE did not hear back.