LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A Guatemalan man is accused of impregnating an 11-year-old, who he allegedly sexually abused since she was 9.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said 25-year-old Rony Mendez was extradited from Guatemala after fleeing to the country to avoid prosecution for his crimes against the little girl.
The abuse was discovered at the end of November, 2014, when the girl's mother took her to the health department for an unknown illness. Her mother thought the nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite her daughter was suffering were a result of recent vaccinations.
Once there, doctors realized the 11-year-old was pregnant and contacted the sheriff's office. The girl's mother said her daughter had not been in contact with any unknown males, but revealed a possible suspect - a friend of the family named Rony Mendez.
The same day, detectives went to Mendez's workplace, but were told he left suddenly to deal with what he called an emergency. The victim's mother later told detectives she called to confront him about her daughter's pregnancy. She then said Mendez got his belongings and possibly fled to his home country.
Days later, on December 2, 2014, the victim's mother told detectives she talked to Mendez and he confirmed he was in Guatemala.
At first, the victim denied Mendez or any other man as being the person to impregnate her, but later said Mendez sexually assaulted her on at least four occasions, the first of which happened in her bedroom during her fifth grade year, in 2013. She was 9-years-old. During the first encounter, the victim said Mendez fondled her breast over her clothing.
Mendez's abuse of the girl escalated thereafter. In October, 2013, when the victim was 10, Mendez allegedly raped her in her mother's bed while her mother was at work. The third incident, which was similar to the second,, happened when the victim was between 10- and 11-years-old
The fourth happened between June and July 2014 and is when the victim became pregnant. Detectives said Mendez instructed the 11-year-old child to lie down, and he removed his and her clothing before sexually battering her.
On December 18, 2014, detectives collected items Mendez left behind, some containing his DNA. An analysis of his DNA compared to the DNA of the baby, who was born in mid-spring of 2015, confirmed that Mendez is the biological father.
On April 21, 2016, at the FBI's request, Mendez was arrested without incident by GNP in West Central Guatemala. Extradition authority was finalized in August and, on Monday, August 29, FBI and PCSO personnel took custody of Mendez in Guatemala and escorted him back to the U.S.
Mendez remains in custody in Polk County awaiting a first appearance hearing. He was charged with with three counts sexual battery on a minor under 12-years-old and one count of lewd molestation.
"This arrest reflects the dedication and determination of our detectives and their counterparts within the FBI Tampa office and the Department of Justice.
"Mendez perversely took advantage of a young child. It just doesn't get much worse than that. He tried running away from the consequences of his actions, but he couldn't hide from justice.
"Our thanks also go to Guatemalan law enforcement and judicial officials who worked with U.S. officials to bring Mendez back to the US. We look forward to holding Mendez accountable for his crimes, and we hope he spends many more years thinking about his violation of an innocent child," said Sheriff Grady Judd in a statement.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted the PCSO by coordinating the arrest and extradition of Mendez through the FBI Legal Attaché office in Guatemala. The extradition process included coordination with US Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, the Guatemala Public Ministry, and the Guatemala National Police (GNP).