SANTA MARIA: The Santa Maria couple accused of using witchcraft and drugs to lure a teenage girl into sex accept a plea deal today.
Sean and Rachelle Pelino each pled no contest to three different felony sex-related charges. They both face four years, four months in prison. They also must register as sex offenders.
Today in court, the defendants handed in a letter of apology to be read at next month’s formal sentencing.
The victim’s family says all that is too little, too late.
One by one, the husband-wife duo walked into court to hear their fate.
Rachelle Pelino pleaded no contest to oral copulation, sending harmful sexual materials, and lewd acts upon a child.
Sean Pelino, also entering the same plea to sending sex materials and lewd acts, as well as penetration with a foreign object.
The victim’s family cried in court as they listened to what the girl-then fourteen-had to go through.
“The family’s been behind the child 100 percent and they pulled together and [it] has brought the family closer,” said family friend Jack Lawson. “But it’s been a hard issue for the child.”
Police arrested the pair last July. Family members say the Pelinos took advantage of a vulnerable teenager, gaining her trust through Wicca and drugs.
Jack read a statement from the victim’s mother and grandmother:
“My fear is that these predators will continue to pursue their ways, and destroy another child’s life after their release,” Lawson recited.
But relatives agreed a trial would have been a difficult ordeal.
“Whenever you have a minor victim who’s a victim of a sexual assault or sexual abuse, ongoing as it was in this case, you have to consider their emotional damage in putting them through the trauma of a trial,” said Deputy District Attorney Megan Baldwin.
The family is now ready to put this behind them and start over.
Family members say the victim is doing much better now and is going through therapy. They add, her health and her privacy is their first priority.
The Pelinos have two young children themselves, who were turned over to Social Services after the investigation.
They remain behind bars with no bail.