CHEROKEE COUNTY, N.C. — Cherokee County, North Carolina Sheriff Derrick Palmer says a 39-year-old man is now in custody and facing charges he sexually assaulted a child.
A release from Sheriff Palmer says someone filed a complaint with investigators back in January about a sexual assault involving a child. Palmer says an investigation then got underway, that identified the suspect as Benito Morales Mendez.
During the investigation several electronic devices, and other items of physical evidence were collected for examination, according to Sheriff Palmer.
He says as the investigation continued an additional allegation of violation of a domestic violence protective order was made against Mendez and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Additionally, Sheriff Palmer says an arrest warrant was issued for Mendez’s arrest for the allegations involving the sexual assault of the child.
Palmer says when detectives tried to arrest Mendez, they learned he had fled North Carolina. Detectives also learned Mendez was not a legal U.S. citizen.
Investigators reached out to the United States Marshal Service Fugitive Apprehension Task Force, and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations who Palmer says helped in locating Mendez several months later in Texas where he had fled.
Sheriff Palmer says Mendez refused to waive extradition and a governor’s warrant was issued. Mendez was brought back to Cherokee County where the North Carolina warrants were served on him.
Mendez now faces charges that include statutory rape of a child by adult and violate domestic violence protection order.
Mendez was taken before the North Carolina Magistrate who set a $500,000.00 secure bond. Additionally Mendez has a ICE Detainer which has no bond.
He'll next appear in court on October 1st.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer said “As you can see it takes a team effort and one of the reasons we work so closely with our local and Federal partners. Due to the age of the victim we will not be making any further press releases.”
Sheriff Palmer says as the case was being investigated assistance was provided by HAVEN Child Advocacy Center, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County Department of Social Services, and Cherokee County Schools. These agencies provided assistance in collecting statements from the victim and witnesses.