A 66-year-old Fort Worth man jailed in March after lending his computer to a young family friend who discovered nude photographs of his 10-year-old sister, pleaded guilty Friday to molesting the girl and her older sister.
In exchange for pleading guilty to the two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child, Joe Garza Jr. was sentenced to 35 years in prison without parole.
At his current age, this means Garza, in all probability, will die in prison.
“It’s basically a life sentence,” said Assistant District Attorney Kelly Meador, who prosecuted the case along with Marty Purselley.
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Garza also plead guilty to 10 counts of possession of child pornography in exchange for the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. That sentence will run concurrently with the other.
Garza’s defense attorney, Clay Graham, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
Meador said the victims’ family had supported the plea deal to save the girls from having to relive what happened during the trial.
She said Garza had been a life-long friend of the family who, the investigation revealed, had abused both sisters for over a year.
“This is one of the worst that I’ve dealt with,” Meador said. “It’s such a violation of trust on so many levels. Not only what he did to these girls, but also how he hurt the family all the way around. They were OK with him being around their children. It’s just a huge violation of trust.”
The victims’ brother had been trying to fix his own hard drive when he asked to borrow Garza’s computer.
“When he hooked it up, he saw a folder on there,” Domingo Martinez, a Fort Worth officer assigned to the North Texas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, previously told the Star-Telegram. “Curious, he looked at it, and that’s when he saw pictures of his sister.”
The boy alerted his mother, who confronted Garza about the photographs that same day. Police have said Garza acknowledged to the mother that he had a problem. He asked her not to call the police, saying he would disappear and not come back, Martinez has said.
The mother, however, texted an older daughter, asking her to call the police. Garza was still at the family’s home when officers arrived.
In a subsequent interview with investigators, Garza admitted to sexually abusing the 10-year-old girl and taking photographs and video of the girl. He also confessed to molesting the girl’s older sister when she was about 10 or 11, according to his arrest warrant affidavit.
When interviewed, the older sister confirmed she’d been sexually abused, too.
A forensic search of Garza computer revealed photos and videos of both girls, including one of the girls hanging upside down in the dining room from what appears to be a white rope.
A subsequent search of Garza’s home by police revealed a wooden swing-like contraption with white rope hanging from a rafter in his dining room.
“The Fort Worth Police Department did a really good job,” Meador said. “I can’t commend them enough for the hard work they did on this case.”