A San Diego man who packed up the little boy he was babysitting and drove him to a location where he knew the child would be molested and even videotaped the assault, refused to look at the victim’s family during his sentencing Tuesday.
Aaron Zendejas, 24, pleaded guilty last month to charges that he kidnapped a child for the purpose of a molest and then helped in the molestation. He’ll spend 15-years to life in prison, a sentence that's as long as if he were convicted of murder according to prosecutors.
Family members of the victim addressed Zendejas and the court before sentencing. The child was three at the time of the assault and his behavior has drastically changed according to his parents.
“This has destroyed my family. Wrecked my son,” the child’s father said wiping tears from his eyes. “He went from playing with Thomas the Train to pulling Legos off of stuff to talking about killing me, about pulling people’s eyes out.”
“[Zendejas] sold my son to someone so he could get raped and he’s never going to be the same again,” the victim’s father told the judge. “He tore our lives up and I want him to get what he deserves.“
The victim’s mother knew Zendejas for at least 10 years, since they were both 14 years old, and trusted him with the care of her child. According to family members, she was in a time of need when she asked Zendejas to help her out.
“He had a choice to turn that car back around and he didn’t,” the victim’s mother said at the sentencing. “I don’t know why somebody would do something like that to a 3-year old child.”
“There’s not enough time in this world to take away what he did, “ she said.
Outside of court, the child’s family expressed anger that Zendejas stood on the other side of a glass wall during the sentencing hearing, facing away from the gallery.
“I think he should’ve came out from behind that door, from behind that partition and faced everybody,” said the victim’s maternal grandfather.
“He helped videotape a 3-year old being seen in ways a child should never be seen or handled but he can’t come out and be seen by the people he hurt,” said the victim’s step-grandmother. “He was hiding from our pain and that little boy couldn’t hide.
However Zendejas’ mother said her son has expressed remorse to her in private conversations.
“I’ve spoken with Aaron since his incarceration and I can tell you, he’s very sorry for his actions,” Jeannie Holloway said in a prepared statement after the hearing.
“As hard as it may seem, it is time to heal,” she said.
Time for Zendejas’ family to heal perhaps but for the victim’s family, there remains a second defendant who is set to go to try in April.
Jared Yaffe, 30, is accused of paying Zendejas, to provide children for him. Police say Yaffe would molest the children and take pictures and videos of them before selling the images on the Internet.
He is charged with 21 separate counts that involve three victims including the child from Zendejas’ case. Those charges stem from more than one incident in San Diego and Alameda counties.