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A 68-year-old foster parent was sentenced Friday to 18 years to life in state prison for sexually abusing six young girls during a period of six years before a relative found evidence of the crimes recorded on a memory card and called police.

Maria Esther Hernandez, age 61. (Credit: Santa Ana Police)
Maria Esther Hernandez, age 61. (Credit: Santa Ana Police)

Felipe Hernandez, 68, pleaded guilty on Feb. 13 to multiple felony counts including; forcible lewd acts, unlawful sexual intercourse, oral copulation of a minor, sexual penetration by a foreign object and possession and control of child pornography, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

His wife, Maria Esther Hernandez, 61, pleaded guilty to one felony count of being an accessory after the fact in 2013 and was sentenced to three months in jail, the release stated.

Prosecutors listed some of the acts that occurred in the defendants’ Santa Ana home:

  • On one occasion between Feb. 1, 2006, and March 31, 2006, Felipe Hernandez molested and raped 9-year-old Jane Doe 1 by force.
  • On several occasions between Sept. 26, 2006, and April 13, 2007, the defendant sexually touched 10-year-old Jane Doe 4’s buttocks underneath the victim’s clothes.
  • On several occasions between Dec. 4, 2006, and Aug. 21, 2012, the defendant raped 11-year-old Jane Doe 3.
  • On one occasion between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009, Felipe Hernandez performed lewd acts on 14-year-old Jane Doe 6.
  • Between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 21, 2012, the defendant performed lewd acts on 15-year-old Jane Doe 2. On multiple occasions, the defendant touched Jane Doe 2’s breasts and buttocks over and underneath the victim’s clothes. On one occasion, the defendant orally copulated Jane Doe 2.
  • The defendant threatened Jane Doe 2 that he would not provide her with any money and other privileges if she did not comply with his sexual demands and threatened to take away Jane Doe 2’s cell phone and laptop.
  • On one occasion between Feb. 13, 2009, and Feb. 13, 2010, the defendant touched 5-year-old Jane Doe 5’s genitals over the victim’s clothes.
  • In the summer of 2012, Maria Hernandez saw Felipe Hernandez raping Jane Doe #3. Maria Hernandez then cut Jane Doe 3’s hair and threatened the victim and instructed her to lie about the incident. Maria Hernandez also lied to other family members about the rape and encouraged them to repeat her lie to social workers and law enforcement.
  • In the summer of 2012, a family member of the defendant discovered a memory card containing a video of the defendant touching Jane Doe 2 on her buttocks and anus and reported it to the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case.

Two of the victims delivered emotional impact statements during Friday’s sentencing describing how each had tried to commit suicide as a result of the acts committed by Hernandez, the DA’s Office said.

One of the victims also explained that while they had forgiven the defendant, they will never forget how he affected their lives.