Judge sentences Stephenville man to 140 years in prison for sexually assaulting teenage girl.
(Note: This story contains graphic details from Tuesday’s testimony in the sentencing phase of Fortino Puerta, who pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault of a child.)
A 17-year-old victim gave graphic and disturbing testimony in the 266th Judicial District Court on Tuesday when she described years of sexual abuse she endured by a family member, 38-year-old Fortino Puerta.
The victim testified that Puerta sexually assaulted her more than 100 times over the course of 11 years, beginning when she was only four years old.
Puerta had already pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault of a child and waived a jury trial; Tuesday’s proceeding was for the sentencing phase of the case.
Barrett Joiner, an investigator with the Stephenville Police Department, was the first person called to the stand.
He testified that he was assigned to the case in December 2020 after the victim, who was 15 years old at the time, made an outcry to Stephenville High School officials.
The victim told authorities that on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2020, Puerta picked her up from school, dropped her off at home and later went back to her residence where he forced her to have sexual intercourse, and used a tissue to clean up afterward.
The semen on that tissue was taken into evidence and linked to Puerta’s DNA.
While on the stand, the victim described how the defendant forced her into a variety of sexual acts over the years, then gave her gifts like Barbie dolls and candy in exchange for her silence. As she got older, he began bribing her with vapes.
In one graphic encounter, the victim said she was at home watching a Disney Christmas movie when Puerta coerced her into a bathroom, ripped off her clothes, then held her down and sexually assaulted her.
She was only in the first or second grade.
When she was nine, she said Puerta took her on a trip to a grocery store, but stopped at a carwash where he sexually assaulted her.
After it was over, he gave her a Hershey’s chocolate bar.
To deal with the years of abuse, the victim said she began cutting herself and using drugs. She later dropped out of school and tried to commit suicide.
Today, she continues to deal with depression and mental disorders.
"He should get the longest sentence possible and l say that because I know what they do to men like him in prison and he should suffer the same things he did to me,” she told assistant district attorney Jett Smith.
Even Puerta’s own attorney – Shay Isham - called the defendant’s behavior “reprehensible and unforgivable.”
Judge Jason Cashon sentenced Puerta to 20 years for count one; 60 years for count two and 60 years for count three.
The victim audibly gasped when Cashon rendered the verdict.