POLK COUNTY, FL (The Tampa Bay Times) – A 29-year-old Polk County man, whom deputies say is in the country illegally, was arrested Friday and faces charges in the sexual battery of an 8-year-old girl, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Wilibaldo Salinas Garcia, of Haines City, admitted to the assault during a recorded phone call and in a series of text messages, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation began Aug. 24, when the girl told her mother Garcia went into her room while she was sleeping. The Sheriff’s Office said Garcia “digitally penetrated her and forced her to touch him.” The girl attempted to roll away, but he pulled her back over. Eventually, she told him she had to use the bathroom and hid until he left her room.
Deputies said a sexual assault exam was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis.
Deputies released messages between Garcia and the girl’s mother. In them, Garcia said he was drunk and didn’t remember the incident, then apologized and said he would talk to the girl.
“She told me you touched her private part and you kissed her and she couldn’t breathe and now she is scared of you,” the mother wrote.
“I promise you it won’t happen again,” he eventually responded.
The messages indicate Garcia is related to the girl.
The girl also told her mother a similar incident happened a year before while she was sitting on a hammock.
“Sorry won’t cut it for this guy; he’s only sorry that he was caught,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “He tried to prevent getting caught by telling the girl that if she told her mother, her mother would hit her.”
Garcia’s criminal history includes misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest, loitering and marijuana possession, the Sheriff’s Office said. When he was arrested, a check of the National Crime Information Center and Florida Crime Information Center revealed Garcia was in the country illegally. Deputies said Garcia fled the country in 2013 when he was suspected of sexually battering another girl in his family. Garcia’s family told deputies he hadn’t been seen in Polk County again until late 2017 when he contacted them.
Garcia was charged with sexual battery on a child under 12, a capital felony in Florida, meaning he could face life in prison or death.
A hold was placed on Garcia at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.