Attorney for group-home worker charged with sexual assault asks judge to set low bond
Sexually incriminating Facebook messages between Iliana Marie Morales and a 16-year-old boy in the group-care home she works in led to her arrest Wednesday for sexual assault on a person in custody, a detective testified Friday in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
But Morales’ attorney, Mark Post, questioned whether she was the one who sent the messages, noting anyone in the building could have accessed the messaging system.
Detective Mark Scruggs said the investigation started around 8 p.m. Sept. 15 when police patrol officers were called to the group home, where a coworker reported finding the messages left open on an in-house computer the previous Sept. 11.
The messages, which were collected and printed, showed the boy asked for $10, and Morales told him that she was showering and washing her hair, and that she was Latina and susceptible to jealously, apparently a reference to the boy’s interaction with another female, Scruggs testified.
The boy told Morales that he wanted to take her to lunch, and that he missed her the other night, to which Morales responded by asking if he regretted what happened, and he replied, “Hell nah, I wanted more,” Scruggs said.
Morales told him that she was about to strip naked and go to bed, and that he should delete the messages because they had to “cover our tracks,” Scruggs said.
The teen later was questioned by a counselor at Children’s Treehouse, where he said he and Morales first had flirted on Facebook and she sent him a photo of herself topless, and later they kissed during one encounter and she gave him oral sex during another, Scruggs testified.
Scruggs said investigators called Morales, who was to have met with police at 1:30 p.m. Monday, but she did not show. She hired Post and turned herself in the next day, the officer said.
Under Post’s cross-examination, Scruggs said the name of the group home is Invictus Transformational Wellness Center. The detective gave no location, but the Better Business Bureau in its online reviews lists a Juniper Avenue address off Macon Road.
Asked whether police had any video evidence, Scruggs said cameras in the home showed Morales and the boy spent 13 to 15 minutes together in a bedroom with the lights out.
Post alleged the boy had been in the regional youth detention center for having sex with another minor: “He has a history – I’ll just put it in that fashion,” the attorney told Judge Julius Hunter.
If the Facebook messaging system was left open so that anyone had access to it, then someone else in the home could have fabricated the exchange, Post said. Dealing with troubled youth can be tricky because “they can make accusations just to get rid of somebody,” he added, noting Morales had no previous arrests.
Hunter found probable cause to send the case to Muscogee Superior Court, setting Morales’ bond at $25,000.