Former Santa Rosa ISD coach sentenced to 19 years for inappropriate relationship with student
A former Santa Rosa High School coach was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Monday after he pleaded guilty to having an inappropriate relationship with a student, Cameron County authorities announced.
Josue Cepeda, 37, pleaded guilty to trafficking of persons, a first-degree felony; six counts of sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony; and one count of improper relationship between an educator and student, a second-degree felony, according to a news release from the Cameron County District Attorney's Office.
Cepeda will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life and will have to abide by a lifetime protective order of the victim.
Prosecutors say the inappropriate relationship began in 2018 when Cepeda began texting a female student in his class.
Contact between Cepeda and the student ceased in May 2018 when allegations were first reported to Santa Rosa ISD officials. At that time, the administration failed to properly investigate and law enforcement was not notified, according to the news release.
Contact between Cepeda and the student resumed in January 2019 and, within days, inappropriate messaging resulted in physical sexual contact, according to the news release.
In February 2019, the Homeland Security Investigations Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Task Force started investigating the case after concerned citizens reported the alleged relationship.
Cepeda was placed on administrative leave during this time.
Prosecutors say a lengthy law enforcement investigation ensued with the "complete support of incoming Santa Rosa ISD Superintendent Dr. Angela Garza."
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said Monday in a statement that Garza's cooperation in the investigation was instrumental in obtaining new facts and witness statements.
“Dr. Gonzalez was targeted by the administrative personnel, school board members, and the community for cooperating with law enforcement and the District Attorney. These folks know who they are. If not for Dr. Gonzalez’s courage and commitment to the children of Santa Rosa, today’s plea would not have happened,” Saenz said in a statement.
The Santa Rosa Independent School District wasn't immediately available for comment on Monday.