Jurors began hearing testimony Tuesday in 35th District Court in the trial of former Brownwood pastor Fernando Hernandez for continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children.
Hernandez, 52, is accused by indictment of sexually abusing two young girls who are relatives and a third girl who was part of a ministry called It’s A Challenge, which Hernandez ran in Plainview. Hernandez later ran It’s A Challenge in Brownwood.
Prosecutor Elisha Bird told jurors in her opening statement jurors will hear about sexual abuse that occurred beginning in 2010. Hernandez and his wife, Lorena, were living in Plainview when Hernandez traveled with youth from It’s A Challenge to an event in Columbus, Ohio.
One of the youth, a 13-year-old girl, thought she was getting an unusual amount of attention from Hernandez as they traveled in a van, Bird told jurors. As the group returned to Texas, they traveled through Brownwood and spent a night at Hernandez’s brother’s home, Bird said.
The girl woke up and was terrified at realizing Hernandez was touching her private area, Bird told jurors. Hernandez left the room when he realized the girl was awake.
Law enforcement began an investigation that was not completed, Bird told jurors. Law enforcement reopened that investigation after learning it had not been completed, Bird said.
In 2016, a young girl who is related to Hernandez made an outcry that Hernandez had been touching her private area, Bird told jurors. The girl was 7 when she made the outcry, and within the next year, another young girl made an outcry, Bird said.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Tommy Adams, reserved making an opening statement for later in the trial.
Bird called witnesses including one of the girls, now in her late teens, who is related to Hernandez. Speaking softly, the girl told jurors she was 7 when she accompanied Hernandez and some cousins on a hunting trip.
The girl said she was alone with Hernandez when he asked her if she wanted to ride on his shoulders. The girl agreed to do so, and Hernandez reached up and began touching the girl in her private area, the girl told jurors.
Later that night, the girl testified, she was with Hernandez in his home when he again touched the girl and exposed himself to her.
The girl said she has experienced depression and anxiety. “I get really uncomfortable when an older man looks at me,” the girl told jurors.