More victims come forward as former school worker faces sexual contact, assault charges

Crime

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – More victims are coming forward, accusing a former New Mexico school employee of molesting them. Robert Apodaca was already facing charges of criminal sexual contact after an incident with a student in 2019. Three more victims have come forward with their own assaults, and according to police reports, at least one school employee knew of behavior and didn’t report it.

“We were notified of additional victims once the original story came out that Mr. Apodaca had been arrested,” said Attorney Paul Linnenburger. “One of the families reached out to us, looking for assistance.”


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Apodaca, 30, is now accused of molesting two boys who were around eight years old at the time, as well as molesting and sexually assaulting another, starting when the boy was 14.

“We suspect and expect that there will be significant numbers of additional victims that unfortunately will be coming forward as time goes on,” said Linnenburger.

The original allegation occurred in 2019 while Apodaca was an employee at the Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe. Back in September, Santa Fe Public Schools said police didn’t notify them about the allegations until months after it had been reported.

“We understand that not everything can be shared with us,” Hilario “Larry” Chavez, superintendent of SFPS, said back in September. “But any information that can be shared would help us, in the future, plan and prepare.”

Linnenburger has worked for years, representing victims of child sexual abuse. He says after working in previous cases involving the school district and the Archdiocese, it’s frustrating — but not surprising — that incidents have continued.

“I wish I could say that experience had taught them that they needed to be particularly vigilant in situations such as this but it does not appear that was the case,” said Linnenburger. “So, unfortunately, here we are again.”

After his time at SFPS, Apodaca went on to work at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School, where two of the new allegations also stem. In an interview with New Mexico State Police, a school employee says she witnesses inappropriate behavior between Apodaca and a student but didn’t report it at the time and decided to, instead, “pray on it.” It’s one of the reasons Linnenburger hopes to go beyond the criminal case and make a greater impact on other students going through these institutions.

“The criminal process will take care of the individual perpetrators but really what we are looking to do is to change the culture and to really make it a point that this is wholly unacceptable to not have procedures in place, to not have oversight in place, to be placing people in a position to take advantage of vulnerable children, and to do so without keeping a close eye on those educators themselves,” said Linnenburger. “Undoubtedly, there are additional victims out there and I think that it’s important they know they’re not alone.”

KRQE News 13 reached out to Santa Fe Public Schools for an updated response but they’re declining to comment on the ongoing investigation. KRQE did not hear back from Santo Niño. Apodaca was released last week on bond. He’s expected back in court on these new charges later this month.

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