An Ohio man was arrested Tuesday for raping a 10-year-old girl who became a central figure in the debate over abortion rights after she reportedly traveled to Indiana to have an abortion when Ohio outlawed the procedure last month.
Arrest records and court records viewed by The Daily Beast confirm that Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested Tuesday in Franklin County on a felony charge of raping a person under 13. The Columbus Dispatch, who first reported on his arrest, attended Fuentes’ arraignment in Columbus on Wednesday.
The unidentified girl’s plight became national news when the Indianapolis Star quoted a doctor who said a 10-year-old rape victim, who was six weeks and three days pregnant, had been forced to travel from her home in Columbus to Indiana for an abortion. Her home state had a trigger law that immediately outlawed abortions after six weeks once the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
A Columbus Police detective, identified by the Dispatch as Jeffrey Huhn, testified in court Wednesday that the 10-year-old victim was impregnated and had an abortion in Indianapolis.
“The victim went out of state to have a medically terminated abortion,” he said, according to video of the arraignment.
Fuentes, a Guatemalan national, is in the country illegally, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. He was being held in Ohio on Wednesday on an ICE detainer.
Video from the arraignment showed Fuentes staring blankly during the arraignment and standing with a slouch as a translator relayed the proceedings to him in Spanish.
Court records say the alleged rape occurred on May 12. Detectives said in court that police were made aware of the girl’s pregnancy through a referral filed with the local child services’ branch by her mother on June 22. Eight days later, the girl had the abortion in Indianapolis.
The aborted fetus has since been tested for DNA and entered into evidence, Huhn said, and officials say Fuentes confessed to the rape when he was questioned.
His arrest comes after conservative media claimed the girl’s story was made up for political theater, something parroted by Fox News presenters as recently as Tuesday night—while Fuentes was already in custody.
But those also with egg on their face in light of the horrific crime: the top law-enforcement official in Ohio.
Indeed, state Attorney General Dave Yost spent much of the past week effectively dubbing the story a hoax, suggesting he had heard nothing about any such crime being reported.
“We have a decentralized law enforcement system in Ohio, but we have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs,” Yost said in a Fox News segment Monday. “Not a whisper anywhere.”
Yost released a statement Wednesday afternoon that did not address his previous comments.
“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” he said. “I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street.”
Yost’s Democrat challenger in this fall’s election, Jeff Crossman, blasted his 65-year-old opponent in a statement to The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
“After implementing a six-week abortion ban without exemptions for rape or incest, Dave Yost rushed to get himself on national TV to criticize the story of a 10-year-old rape victim, calling the story a ‘fabrication,’” said Crossman, currently a state representative.
“... Yost must immediately apologize to this young girl, her family and all Ohioans and start working to roll back this harmful policy that helped make a terrible tragedy even worse,” Crossman added.
While Yost and others declared the story was fabricated, those directly involved foreshadowed Wednesday’s arrest announcement.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist who first described the rape and its aftermath to the Indy Star, previously told The Daily Beast she expected vindication.
“It will all come out in time,” she said via text message on Tuesday.
Court records show Fuentes is being held on a bond of $2 million. The judge said he was considered a flight risk and, given the brutality of the crime, a high bail was necessary to protect the child involved.
—with reporting by Pilar Melendez