GOSHEN — An Elkhart man who was convicted of seven counts of child molesting has been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison.
Juan Mendoza, 58, was convicted by a jury Oct. 9. His punishment includes 40 years for each of five counts of child molesting as a Class A felony, with the terms to be served consecutively.
He was sentenced to another six years in prison for a count of child molesting as a Class C felony and 10 years for a sex crime involving a minor victim as a Level 4 felony. Those prison terms are also consecutive.
Mendoza’s sentence was 52 years below the maximum possible time for the seven charges. A jury convicted him on all counts after hearing two days of testimony.
His crimes involved four victims, including one who was still a minor at the time she told authorities that he had been abusing her since a young age. The dates on the charges against Mendoza span a period between 2001 and 2018, when he was arrested.
Three women who are now adults also described to investigators how Mendoza molested them each for a period of about 10 years, beginning when they were under age 6. They described frequent, almost daily incidents with Mendoza that sometimes involved two of them at the same time, when he wanted the girls to re-enact scenes in pornographic videos he would show them.
One of the victims had expressed a fear that she could become pregnant, but he told her it wasn’t possible because she was still prepubescent, court documents show.
Mendoza convinced his four victims that what he was doing to them were “regular events” that were “part of growing up,” observed Judge Teresa Cataldo, Elkhart County Superior Court 3, in handing down his sentence on Nov. 7. She said children are often afraid there could be monsters in the closet, but the four victims grew up to realize the monster they feared happened to be Mendoza’s own actions.
Mendoza said he plans to appeal his sentence and conviction.