Thermal man to stand trial for molestation charges

INDIO, Calif. - A 61-year-old Thermal contractor accused of repeatedly molesting a young female relative was ordered today to stand trial on felony charges.

A judge ruled that enough evidence was presented at John Ruiz Ureste's preliminary hearing to proceed to trial on seven counts of committing a lewd act with a child younger than 14. He is due back in court on July 2.

Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Timothy White testified on Tuesday that the girl, who was 11 when the alleged yearlong molestation started in July 2011, told her mother that Ureste "had been touching her" at his house on Pierce Street.

White recalled an instance when the girl and her brother were spending the night, sleeping in Ureste's bedroom. During the night, she said, Ureste asked her to move closer to him, and "he put his hand inside her underwear and she put her hand inside his underwear," White testified.

He said the alleged victim spent a lot of time at Ureste's house. He would pick her up from school, and she would do chores for him and often stay overnight.

White said the girl's mother described Ureste as a "good man," but said she "wanted to do the right thing for her daughter."

Ureste allegedly kissed the girl, touched her breasts and buttocks and rubbed his privates against her while she was clothed and got her to touch him, according to a sworn declaration filed in support of a search warrant.

"The victim stated she was very scared and was afraid to say or do anything," sheriff's Investigator Melissa Nieburger wrote. "Ureste provided (the girl) with money and gifts of chocolate and candy. He told her not to tell because `a secret is between two people and not three."'

Ureste, who was arrested in August 2012, is free on a $75,000 bond.

At the preliminary hearing, a representative from the California Contractors State License Board asked the judge to suspend Ureste's contractor's license during criminal proceedings. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey L. Gunther declined, but added to Ureste's bail requirements a condition that he not work in areas where unsupervised minors are present, according to Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte and court records.

Ureste is listed on the contractors licensing board's website as a general contractor with a post office box in Coachella.

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