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Man guilty of 11 charges in captive-girl abuse case

Citizen Staff Writer



A Tucson man accused of holding a teenage relative captive and abusing her has been convicted of 11 of 14 charges including continuous sexual abuse, kidnapping, giving a minor pornography and child abuse.

Rene Tibucio Valenzuela, 36, was charged with 17 counts, but three were dismissed before jurors began deliberating because there was not enough evidence to support them.

Deputy County Attorney Bunkye Chi couldn’t say what the sentencing range would be, but most of the counts must be served consecutively. That means he could serve decades in prison.

The Pima County Superior Court jury began deliberating Wednesday morning and reached its verdicts yesterday afternoon.

A 15-year-old Tucson girl testified that she was kept locked in a room for days while she heard other children in the house playing with friends, watching TV and eating dinner as a family.

Not only did Valenzuela smack her with an open hand and punch her with fists, she said tearfully, but she was also sexually abused from age 8.

The girl testified that she had to ask Valenzuela for permission to leave her locked room to go to the bathroom, where she also was fed her meals, usually two a day.

She was locked up, she said, “because (Valenzuela) said that I was a liar and a thief.”

She testified that she was often punished for “stealing” food, such as an apple, because she was hungry.

The girl was 5 foot 5 and weighed less than 100 pounds when she ran away from Valenzuela’s East Side house in February 2005. She escaped by clawing at her bedroom door’s frame until it was out and squeezing through, she said.

She has grown four inches since she ran away and has put on 75 pounds. She lives with a foster mom.

The girl is not being identified by the Tucson Citizen to protect her privacy.

Valenzuela’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Valauri Arguello, will stand trial in July on child abuse charges, though a plea agreement might be reached before then.

Judge Frank Dawley set Valenzuela’s sentencing for June 5.

Defense attorney Walter Palser told Dawley he told Valenzuela not to talk to probation officers for a presentence report. By law, Valenzuela cannot be penalized for not cooperating, Dawley noted.

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