WILLMAR -- A man who sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl a decade ago has pleaded guilty and will be deported from the United States.
Tomas Hernandez Lopez, 41, signed the plea agreement Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court. The case had been set to go to trial Nov. 30, but Lopez instead agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.
He also is being turned over to the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, with credit for the jail time he has already served. He could have faced 10 years in a U.S. prison.
The case, involving a 5-year-old girl, is more than 10 years old. It first came to the attention of local authorities in May 2000, after the girl told a young friend about the assault.
The friend then told her mother, who contacted Willmar police.
Lopez allegedly molested the victim more than once. According to court records, he was living in the same apartment as the girl's family and sexually assaulted her while her parents were out shopping.
When questioned by police, he initially denied the assault. Formal charges were filed but Lopez dropped out of sight and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Authorities caught up with him this past September and arrested him.