SEGUIN — Responding to a 911 call of a sexual assault on North Austin Street on April 17, police found a distraught and disheveled woman in a small office. They also found an audio recording, made secretly by her, as well as forensic evidence.
On the tape, a woman tells someone named “Roger” to “stop it” and she says “no” about 20 times. She also begs him not to hurt her or pull her hair. Afterward, a cellphone rings and a male voice is heard in casual business conversation.
According to the woman, Rhonda Gonzales, 39, her assailant was the office landlord, Roger Sanchez, 50, about whom other women have complained of sexual misbehavior. Sanchez has a 1982 conviction for burglary with intent to commit rape.
Within hours, police had prepared warrants to arrest Sanchez, but when Assistant District Attorney Kristy Stone declined to approve them, saying more information was needed, the case slowed. Now, more than a month later, Gonzales said she is perplexed and fearful.
“I can't even get a protective order because he hasn't been arrested for anything. I just want to feel safe, and he's still running around,” said the single mother of three teenagers. “I'm tired of being scared. I'm tired of locking my doors every night.”
Sanchez, who has not been interviewed by police, declined to comment when approached at his countertop business, Onyx Creations, which is next to the office of Josie Williams Fencing, where Gonzales works.
His lawyer, Susan Schoon, said Friday that it appears her client is being set up.
“I think it's clear from the outset that these are false accusations. It's my understanding she recorded a consensual sexual encounter. I'm not sure what's going on but we're ready to deal with it in court,” she said.
Capt. Maureen Watson of the Seguin police said, despite complaints of inaction, police are trying to “put together the strongest case we can for this victim.”
“No one has thrown up any roadblocks or stalled it. No one has refused the case or turned it down,” she said.
District Attorney Heather McMinn did not respond to a series of questions, including whether she has recused herself from the case, whether a special prosecutor will be appointed or whether Sanchez is receiving special treatment.
Josie Williams, who is Gonzales' boss, said that sometime in 2010 Sanchez introduced McMinn to her as “my good friend,” when the prosecutor was visiting his office as a customer. Williams said she saw McMinn visit several times after that.
Gonzales' lawyer, James Millan, said he is more concerned about an apparent conflict involving Stone, the assistant district attorney who, on April 17, decided not to have Sanchez arrested.
According to court records in both Caldwell and Guadalupe counties, Stone, while in private practice, represented Sanchez as a defense lawyer in matters related to a DWI case in 2010.
“When Kristy Stone went over to the police station, she knew she was disqualified as soon as she saw who it was. She's automatically disqualified,” Millan said.
Instead, Stone made the decision that more investigation was needed, according to police.
“Kristy asked for the whole case to be prepared to go to her office. They wanted more information,” Watson said.
Millan said this decision, to hold off on an arrest, is even more puzzling, given the strength of the evidence, including the tape recording.
Stone did not respond to inquiries about the matter, including her possible conflict of interest.
Other women have also complained of Sanchez's conduct.
Elfie McMurren, who worked for Williams in 2010 when her business shared office space with Onyx Creations, said Sanchez constantly made crude comments to her. Once, she said, he enraged her 22-year-old daughter with “perverted and inappropriate behavior” in the office parking lot.
She said he was making very obscene gestures to her and coming on to her. He stuck his tongue out and was flicking it back and forth, while making an obscene gesture with his hand,” McMurren said in a written statement provided to Millan and police.
Eventually, McMurren insisted that the door between the two offices be kept locked.
“The thought of being at the shop alone with him made me physically sick to my stomach,” she wrote.
She said some of Sanchez's female employees and a customer also complained about his behavior.
One ex-employee, who asked that her name not be used, said she quit working for Sanchez after only about three weeks in 2010 because of what she said was aggressive sexual behavior.
“He'd make rude advances. When I'd have to clean the grout off the floor, he'd straddle my back and squeeze me, and push my face toward his crotch. When I was up on the ladder, he would hit me in the rear,” she said.
She said Sanchez would also hold her paycheck until everyone else left, and make her go places with him in his vehicle for no apparent reason.
“I felt like I was in danger of something happening. I couldn't handle it so I quit,” she added.
Gonzales said the April 17 incident was not the first time Sanchez had forced himself on her. But she said she did not report the earlier incidents because Sanchez regularly threatened to raise the rent or evict the business if she did not cooperate.
“The day of the incident that I taped, the first thing he said as he rubbed up against me was that he was going to call Ralph (our dealer) and tell him he was taking over the buildings,” she said.
“It is hard enough to find a job in Seguin even if you work for commissions. I have three kids that depend on me. I had to do what he said or else I would be living on the streets,” she added.
Shortly after the April 17 incident, Gonzales summoned Williams, her father and his ex-wife to the small office on North Austin Street, and then played the tape for them.
When Sanchez returned in his vehicle a little later, her father went outside and confronted him, leading to a scuffle.
“He said, ‘What the hell have you done to my daughter?' I was right behind him,” recalled Linda Hoelscher, the former wife.
“The guy said, ‘You don't understand. We were having an affair,'” she said.
“And her father said, ‘We've got a tape in there, and it doesn't sound like you are having an affair to me. And that's when the guy started saying, “I'm sorry, I know what I did was wrong,'” Hoelscher said.
Harold Howton said Sanchez refused to listen to the tape made by his daughter.
“I told him, ‘Even if you've been married for 20 years, and she says no, it's no,'” said Howton. “And he kept on saying he was sorry, over and over. That was about it. He just kept telling me he was sorry.”
On Friday, Capt. Watson said the assault case may soon move forward.
“I'm scheduled to have that case to the DA by the end of today, if all goes well. They will review the case and be the ones to make the decision if it goes to the grand jury for indictment,” she said.