Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Man guilty of child abuse, sexual assault for beating adopted teen

LANCE BENZEL Updated: February 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

An El Paso County man faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison after a jury Tuesday convicted him of sexual assault and multiple counts of felony assault and child abuse against his adopted teenage son.

Jeremiah Lovato, 40, listened in silence as 4th Judicial District Judge Robert L. Lowrey read guilty verdicts on 18 of the 21 counts against him.

The jury affirmed two guilty counts for which Lowrey initially said their written responses were "ambiguous."

Afterward, prosecutors and El Paso County sheriff's investigators lined up to convey their well wishes to the now 15-year-old victim, who sat in a front row flanked by supporters. He showed little emotion as the verdicts were announced.

The boy spent a week in the hospital after he jumped a fence and fled to a neighbor's house for help Jan. 3, 2010, rather than submit to another beating.

His name is being withheld because of his age and the nature of the allegations. The Gazette does not generally identify victims of sexual assault.

The jury of eight women and four men heard testimony during the eight-day trial that Lovato beat the boy with a piece of lumber, meat tenderizer, a belt and his fists while Lovato and the boy lived in Craig and then El Paso County.

The panel began deliberating Friday afternoon and reached its verdicts Tuesday morning.

The sexual assault conviction relates to the boy's claims that Lovato stomped on his testicles when he failed to stay still during beatings. A conviction carries the possibility of serving "the rest of the sex offender's natural life" in prison, according to state law.

Graphic photos of the infected wounds covering the boy's buttocks were shown throughout the trial to support the claim that the boy suffered serious injuries — a legal requirement for some of the most serious counts.

In acquitting him on three charges, the jury found there wasn't sufficient evidence to conclude Lovato choked the boy.

The jury also rejected charges that Lovato violated a restraining order and his bond when he drove by the boy's school bus stop on March 5, three months after the boy had been placed in foster care. The jurors, however, found that Lovato was guilty of similar crimes when he shouted "I love you" from his car while the boy was at a bus stop Feb. 3.

Lovato took the boy into his Craig home on Jan. 3, 2008, two years to the day from when the boy escaped. The two moved to the outskirts of eastern Colorado Springs after the adoption was approved in 2009.

School officials in Craig believed the boy was being abused more than two years ago and reported their suspicions to social services agencies. Social workers testified in the trial that they were unable to document the abuse and Lovato eventually took the boy out of school.

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Call the writer at 636-0366.

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