BRIGHTON, Colo. -- A former teacher convicted of molesting two elementary school students was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Wednesday despite refusing to appear at the hearing.
Gilbert Trujillo was due to be sentenced Tuesday, but he repeatedly smashed his head against the wall of his holding cell, forcing the sentencing to be delayed 24 hours.
Judge Robert Kiesnowski Jr. said Tuesday he did not want to delay the sentencing more than 24 hours because the family of one victim had traveled from Nebraska.
The other victim said she was anxious to share her victim impact statement with Trujillo on Wednesday -- but Trujillo refused to appear at the hearing.
Senior deputy prosecutor Yvette Guthrie with the 17th Judicial District said she had never seen a defendant refuse to attend his own sentencing in her 15 years in the district attorney’s office.
"I think it's an excuse for him to not be held accountable for the crimes he committed against these children," Guthrie said.
Kiesnowski said Trujillo's refusal to show up demonstrates the kind of person he is.
"This speaks volumes about who he is. He is a child molester. His behavior is inexcusable," Kiesnowski said. "He does not have the human decency to come into this courtroom and apologize to these victims and ask their forgiveness. The court is frankly outraged."
The former Adams 14 School District teacher was convicted in February of molesting two of his female students at Dupont Elementary School, in 2004 and 2010.
He was originally charged with molesting six female students between 2004 and 2011. The victims were 9, 10 and 11 years old. His convictions are for two of the six known victims.
His arrest uncovered questionable decisions by school leaders, revealing multiple complaints to the Adams 14 School District dating back years that victims say were never properly investigated.
The Adams County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Trujillo in 2013 after being contacted by the family of one victim. The parents said they made complaints in 2010 to the principal and district leaders but were ignored.
"We couldn't get a straight answer out of anybody. Whether we called the school board and left messages, whether we called the school itself and left messages. Tried to talk anybody there, they refused to talk to us,” the father of the then-fourth-grade girl said.
After the family moved from Commerce City to Nebraska, it decided to contact Adams County detectives, who initiated a two-year investigation that revealed there might have been many more victims.
The Nebraska father said Trujillo groomed his daughter for abuse by giving her gifts.
“Little teddy bears, mock necklace that said ‘I love you,’ box of chocolates, candy bars," he said.
But it was at a teacher-parent conference when the father said Trujillo asked if the girl could sit on his lap in front of her parents that stunned him.
“That's when her mother and I agreed, that was enough and we said that's not acceptable," he said.
"He made me set on his lap and he would take his penis out and he would have his fun," said the girl, now 17, who was given anonymity. "Sometimes I would be crying and he wouldn't care."
She said Trujillo threatened her at the time.
"There was the one where he said if I put him in jail he would come after me and hurt me. To this day I have nightmares," she said.
The arrest affidavit revealed numerous red flags about Trujillo. One student told investigators that in 2008, Trujillo asked her if she wanted him to be a “grandpa, dad or boyfriend” and wrote her a note that said “don’t break my heart” and “I love you.”
Another girl later told investigators that Trujillo “stuck his tongue down her throat” and “she freaked out.”
At the time, school leaders said they weren’t aware of blatant sexual abuse, but personnel files make it clear the principal warned Trujillo about his behaviors.
Dan Sloane, an attorney who represents the Nebraska family, said the district failed to take any meaningful action and should’ve called law enforcement to investigate.
“I believe he should have been fired years earlier and I believe he should have faced the legal justice system years earlier, ” said Sloane, who added one letter found in Trujillo’s disciplinary file was especially telling.
“One specific thing in this letter was he was told if he met with a student, he had to keep his hands on top of the table. Why do you tell a teacher to keep their hands on top of a table? The district knew that something was going on underneath that table that should not have been going on,” Sloane said.
Ashley Kuntz was a 10-year old fifth-grader at Dupont when she said Trujillo targeted her in 2007.
"He bought me a watch, for sure, and then for Christmas, he would get me like fuzzy socks and things like that, some bracelets. ... From what I know now, he was clearly grooming me to go further,” Kuntz said.
Now 21, Kuntz said no inappropriate touching took place but added school leaders didn't do anything when she and her mother complained about Trujillo’s behavior.
“It's terrifying that (district officials) kind of ignored it,” said Kuntz, who believes later victims wouldn’t have been abused if school leaders had removed Trujillo from the classroom after her complaints.
“I feel terribly sad and I'm really sorry that [other victims] had to go through that and that the school didn't listen to them,” Kuntz said.
The victim who now lives in Nebraska said school leaders owe her an apology.
"They messed up big time," she said. "They not only scarred me but many other girls."
Since 2011, when Trujillo resigned, the district has undergone a complete turnover of everyone who was in leadership positions, from the superintendent to the principal at the school.
“His behaviors were deplorable, absolutely horrible,” Adams 14 District spokeswoman Janelle Asmus said.
She added the current administration has implemented new policies to ensure there is never another case like this.
“It’s very specific when it comes to relationships between staff and students," Asmus said. "Boundaries between staff and students, child abuse, how to recognize potential problems and who has the responsibility for reporting those and what we do to follow-up."AlertMe