Migrant worker charged with three felonies
PANTON — A local migrant worker pleaded innocent on March 11 in Rutland District Court, criminal division, to three felony charges — including kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault — stemming from a Feb. 18 incident in Panton during which he allegedly held a woman against her will and forced her to have intercourse with him.
The defendant in the case is 25-year-old Gustavo Perez-Lopez, who is currently being held without bail at the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland.
The alleged incident for which Lopez is being prosecuted occurred at the Whispering Pines Campground on Panton Road in Panton, according to Det. Ruth Whitney, investigator for the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations.
Whitney interviewed the alleged victim, a 40-year-old woman with whom Lopez had been having a relationship, according to court records.
The woman told Whitney that she and Lopez had traveled to Enosburg on Feb. 16 to “party with Mexican laborers,” according to court records. It was at this gathering that Lopez allegedly became upset with the woman, believing that another man had been looking at her and talking to her, Whitney’s affidavit on the case states.
“Lopez elbowed her in the right side of the face and punched her in the ribs causing her pain,” reads the court affidavit. “A Mexican laborer had to pull Lopez off (the victim).”
Police said the victim then left Lopez in Enosburg and drove to Brandon to spend the night, according to court records.
Authorities said Lopez sent the woman text messages the next day, apologizing for his behavior and asking her to return to her Panton camper. The woman returned to her home on Feb. 18 and was met by an “upset” Lopez who allegedly ordered her into the bedroom of the camper, according to court records.
“He ‘smacked’ her in the back of the head, pushed her down the hallway to the bed, picked up a knife and told (the victim) to take her clothes off,” reads the affidavit.
Lopez then allegedly checked her body for track marks and then placed his fingers inside her private areas without the woman’s consent, according to the affidavit.
“(The victim) said that Lopez then started to beat her and punched her repeatedly on the back,” Whitney’s affidavit states. “At one point she sat up on the bed and was crying and Lopez kicked her in the face with his foot. Lopez then got on top of (the victim) and held her arms down and continued to hit her body while she was laying on her back. Lopez then told (the victim) that she needed to go to sleep and he tied her hands and feet with zip ties.”
Lopez removed the zip ties when the woman’s son called her later that day, according to court records. After the woman had finished speaking with her son, Lopez forced her to have intercourse with him, according to the affidavit.
“(She) said that she knew if she said ‘no’ she would just get beaten more,” Whitney reported in her affidavit.
A short time later, according to police, Lopez received a call from Vergennes police about a stolen vehicle complaint he had filed when the victim had left him in Enosburg. When he arrived at the Vergennes police headquarters, U.S. Border Patrol officials took him into custody, according to court records.
The victim told investigators that she had never gone more than three weeks without Lopez beating her. She also reported that Lopez had recently stopped hitting her in the face “so the injuries would not be visible to others,” according to court records.
Lopez on March 11 appeared before Rutland District Court Judge Thomas Zonay to plead innocent to charges of kidnapping, domestic assault and aggravated sexual assault.
Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans headed up the case for the county prosecutors’ office. He said Lopez will be in state custody until the case is resolved. He will face deportation following any penalties he might face if he is convicted and sentenced on any of the charges that have been filed against him, according to authorities.
Lopez is currently being held at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility. His next legal proceeding is scheduled for April 11 at the Addison County Courthouse.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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