Rick Velasco MUG

Rick Velasco

Contributed

Longtime youth soccer coach, community leader and businessman Ricardo Velasco Sr. confessed to Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies in 2013 that he engaged in a sexual relationship with his teenage daughter at his Orcutt home in the 1980s, according to official documents obtained by the Santa Maria Times.

However, he was never arrested or prosecuted for the reported crimes because the statute of limitations had expired, according to sheriff's investigators and the District Attorney's Office. 

On Wednesday, in an interview with the Santa Maria Times, Velasco, 76, retracted the confession, calling it "false," and denied a sexual relationship took place with his now-estranged daughter, Marta LaHaye, 51, who lives in Florida. LaHaye is Velasco's daughter from a first marriage.

He said he confessed to deputies in 2013 because he knew the statute of limitations on the case had expired, meaning he couldn't be prosecuted, and because he thought that by confessing the investigation would end and his family and the organizations he's involved with would be protected.

"My key issue at the time was that I didn't want to jeopardize any of those organizations for any kind of reason," Velasco said. "I had an idea the statute of limitations was in place, I knew the DA would basically [dismiss] it. Otherwise, I would've never accepted the allegations." 

Added his wife, Martha Jane 'Marty' Velasco: "He thought if he confessed, then it'd be all over, and nothing more would come of it." 

Velasco, a retired business manager who worked in the aerospace industry for 28 years in Iowa and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, served as the head varsity soccer coach at several local high schools including Orcutt Academy, Righetti, and St. Joseph's from the early 1980s to 2010s. The alleged molestation, according to LaHaye, occurred between 1979 and 1983, when LaHaye was 13 to 16 years old.

In April 2013, investigators interviewed school officials including then-Orcutt Unified School District Superintendent Bob Bush, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mark Richardson and St. Joseph High School Principal Joanne Poloni, none of whom reported any complaints against Velasco, according to the documents.

Velasco is also affiliated with a long list of regional and community organizations.

The 19 pages of sheriff's documents that contain Velasco's confession, summarize interviews conducted between December 2011 and May 2013 with parties including Velasco, LaHaye's ex-husband and LaHaye's daughter. Additionally, the documents include interviews with LaHaye, social workers who counseled LaHaye and reported the molestation to authorities, and various officials at local high schools where Velasco coached youth soccer for more than 30 years.

Marta LaHaye's story

LaHaye's parents divorced when she was a baby, and she moved to Maine with her mother. When La Haye was 13, she left what she described as an abusive situation and traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Velasco was living with his new wife, to meet him for the first time, according to her interview with sheriff's officials.

During her visit, Velasco asked LaHaye if she wanted to live with them after hearing about the abuse. LaHaye moved to Iowa in 1979, and a year later the entire family moved to California. 

According to sheriff's documents detailing a June 20, 2012, interview with LaHaye, the abuse began about three months after she moved in with her father in Iowa. It "started with Ricardo fondling her [breasts], then kissing. LaHaye said this always happened with her stepmother being gone," the report said.

LaHaye said that by the time she was 14, she and Velasco were engaged in "penile-vaginal intercourse," according to the documents.

After graduating from Righetti High School in 1985, LaHaye enlisted in the military and served for about a decade before moving back to Maine, where she began undergoing counseling in 2010.

During one of her counseling sessions in 2010, LaHaye's clinical social worker in Maine found out about the abuse, according to the documents. Due to the media attention involving Penn State University's football coach Jerry Sandusky involving child molestation, LaHaye said she and her counselor decided to report the case to authorities.

In a phone interview with the Santa Maria Times, LaHaye said: 

"I am coming forward today, because I am afraid my father, who's very involved with soccer and coaching girls between the ages of 13 and 16, might have done this to someone else." 

"In my mind, I don't think I'm the only victim, but I can't prove that."

The alleged molestation was reported to the Maine State Police and Child Welfare Services in Ventura County before being forwarded to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, which began its investigation in late 2011.

Ricardo Velasco's story 

On April 17, 2013, county sheriff's detectives contacted Velasco at his house in Orcutt about the accusations. He later came to the Santa Maria substation for an interview, which was recorded. 

"Prior to any questioning, detectives explained to [Ricardo] that he was not under arrest and was free to leave at any time," according to sheriff's documents, and that the statute of limitations on the accusations had run out.

Velasco initially denied any sexual relationship with his daughter, according to sheriff's documents but said "he was sorry for whatever happened and what she felt was potentially wrong."

As the interview progressed, however, he told detectives he accepted responsibility for having a sexual relationship with LaHaye. "Yeah, like you said, we all do wrong, I mean, you know?" Velasco said, according to the sheriff's documents.

Velasco told detectives the sexual relationship lasted until LaHaye joined the Army at age 18 or 19 and started when she was "15 or 16 years old," the documents state. "Velasco said when she wanted sex they would engage in sexual intercourse," and that the sexual activity occurred at his house "when the kids (two children with Martha Jane 'Marty' Velasco) were at school, and it didn't happen a great deal of times." 

Velasco also told detectives that if they asked others whether Velasco had acted inappropriately with anyone else that people "would laugh" because he treats everyone with respect. He also said that detectives would get positive feedback from "umpteen thousand names," according to sheriff's documents.

When asked by the Santa Maria Times, after retracting the confession, whether he believed the detectives lied in their report, he said they did not lie. 

Velasco said that while he doesn't dispute the contents of the documents, "I feel so many of those questions were leaning towards [channeling] answers."

"I was channeled into a confession," Velasco said. "But at the time, I confessed because I mentally was rationalizing over who I wanted to protect. I wanted to protect my family." 

He continued: "If I denied it, then they probably would've pushed me further, investigated it then finally found out nothing actually happened. But at the same time, I thought, if we actually have a problem, why don't we just finish it off, and that was it." 

Velasco said he will continue standing by his family but will resign from many of the organizations he is a part of.

"I'm going to get my family support, and whatever happens, happens," he said. "Right now, I need to make sure these organizations don't get hurt."

Statute of limitations

County sheriff's Cmdr. Darin Fotheringham said the statute of limitations is an extremely convoluted area of criminal law, and that while a case such as Velasco's might fall outside the statute of limitations, standard protocol is to forward the investigation to the District Attorney's office anyway. 

If the case does fall outside the statute of limitations, a suspect cannot be arrested.

"We're not saying the offense didn't occur," Fotheringham said, but "because the statute of limitations has passed, there's no offense [Velasco] could be arrested for, even with a recorded confession. He couldn't be arrested for child molestation because it had to occur within a certain time frame." 

Fotheringham said that detectives conducted a thorough vetting of all witness statements in the case, including Velasco's confession, and said there was no doubt about the validity of his statements. 

While a confession doesn't prove a crime occurred, "it's a piece to a whole puzzle in a circumstantial sexual assault case," Fotheringham said. 

"When we looked back at the totality of all the evidence we had, there were valid consistencies in everyone's story," Fotheringham said.

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