A Texas sheriff’s deputy accused of raping a 4-year-old girl and threatening her mother with deportation if she called police has died of an apparent suicide in his jail cell, officials told the San Antonio Express-News Tuesday.
Jose Nunez, 47, a 10-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, which encompasses San Antonio, was found dead in his cell at a privately run jail facility in Karnes City, Texas, early Monday morning, according to the Express-News.
Nunez had been at the facility since June, when he was arrested for allegedly repeatedly abusing a 4-year-old girl and trying to keep the abuse under wraps by threatening the girl’s mother, an undocumented immigrant, that he would turn her in to authorities if she reported the heinous act, officials said at the time.
Officials did not comment on how Nunez died, except that he was found unconscious in his cell just before 6 a.m. on Monday, and declared dead, according to the Express-News.
A spokeswoman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office referred questions to the Texas Rangers, the law enforcement agency overseeing the investigation into Nunez's death, and to GEO, the private contractor running the jail in which Nunez was being held.
Representatives of GEO and the Texas Rangers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nunez, who had previously worked at a Bexar County jail facility as a detention officer, was placed at the Karnes City facility about 50 miles outside of San Antonio as part of a departmental policy against housing its own personnel who have been charged with a crime in Bexar County facilities, Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters.
The mother of the little girl reported the alleged in June when her daughter asked her for help, and brought her to a local fire station in order to make the report, Salazar said at a press conference following the arrest.
Salazar said the child suffered a minor injury in at least one of the sexual assaults.
Nunez was arrested June 16 on charges of abusing the little girl, and officials said at the time that he may have preyed on her for months or even years while enforcing her mother’s silence.
“The details of the case are quite frankly, heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting, and infuriating all at the same time,” Salazar said following the arrest.
When the charges were initially announced, Salazar urged anyone, regardless of immigration status, to feel safe reporting crimes in San Antonio.
“He utilized [the woman's immigration status] to his advantage, to place the mother in fear that she would be deported if she did report it,” Salazar said in a press conference. “I don’t know that he was purposely targeting the undocumented community. Certainly what was appealing was the vulnerability of that community because they are less apt to report things.”
Nunez was facing a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted on the charges of super aggravated sexual assault, according to Texas statutes.
Following his arrest he had been ordered held without bail, and was initially put on paid administrative leave before being put on unpaid leave for the duration of the investigation into the alleged crime.
Salazar told the Express-News that the investigation into alleged sexual assaults by Nunez will continue, the newspaper reported.
[Photo: Bexar County Sheriff's Office]