Man who raped pre-teen girls gets 170 years

Article subtitle: 
Sex offender is in U.S. illegally
Article author: 
Stacey Barchenger
Article publisher: 
Statesman Journal
Article date: 
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Article category: 
Article Body: 

A Salem-area man convicted of repeatedly raping two underage girls has been sentenced to more than 170 years in prison — the longest sentence for a sex-crime conviction in Marion County in at least 10 years.

Marion County Judge Dennis Graves handed down the sentence against Juan De Dios Cruz-Rojas after he was convicted by juries of kidnapping, strangulation, sodomy, eight counts of rape, four counts of sex abuse, multiple counts of fourth-degree assault and several other charges.

"Mr. Cruz-Rojas, you are the most self-centered, selfish individual I have ever met," Graves said during a sentencing hearing Dec. 9. "Your crimes are the most evil crimes I have ever had to suffer through listening to. ... Your treatment of children is inexcusable, disgusting and terribly harmful. I don't believe you have any regard for law."

Cruz-Rojas is in the country illegally, Graves said, and has worked as a laborer since 1991. He lived at a farm outside Salem, where many of the rapes occurred.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Kemmy said Cruz-Rojas, 38, repeatedly raped and sexually abused two girls he knew. One of the girls was 11 when the abuse started, the other was about the same age. Both girls, who are now 16 and 19, testified during trials earlier this month.

Kemmy said during the sentencing hearing that Cruz-Rojas one time threw something at one of the girls' heads as she was trying leave; another time he punched one of the girls as he was raping her. One of the girls became pregnant as the result of a rape, Kemmy said.

"It's disgusting the lives he's hurt and created, and he did it without any remorse," Kemmy said. "He made a little girl into a mother while she was still a child. He didn't do it consensually; he did it by rape."

Graves said he has never had the reaction to any case he's heard in his courtroom — including violent murders — as to Cruz-Rojas'.

Cruz-Rojas testified during trial, saying the older girl forced herself on him, but declined to make a statement to the court during sentencing.

Cruz-Rojas received a longer sentence — of 300 months each — on several of the rape charges because of a law known as "Jessica's Law," which went into effect in April 2006.

The law lengthens mandatory sentences for offenders convicted of some sexual offenses if the victim is younger than 12.

Cruz-Rojas was also convicted of several counts of tampering with a witness. An adult woman also has been charged with two felony counts of tampering with a witness in the case and is scheduled to appear in court in January.

Of all Marion County cases involving a sex-crime conviction since 2000, Cruz-Rojas' is the longest sentence, according to statistics from the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Michael David Robinson received a 138-year sentence from a Marion County judge in November 2007 after pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree sodomy involving two young children he knew. Robinson's is the second-longest sentence, according to the DOC.

Kemmy said Cruz-Rojas' sentence was appropriate, calling Cruz-Rojas a vile and despicable man.

"He'll either die in prison or be the oldest living man in the history of the world when he gets out, and I'm betting on the former," Kemmy said. "It's a great Christmas present for the girls, and I think it's the absolutely right thing." or (503) 399-6610 or follow at