The trial for a Montecito church employee charged with molesting his step-granddaughter ended in a 9-3 hung jury Thursday after four days of deliberations, leading Judge Frank Ochoa to declare a mistrial. Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig said a retrial is “a definite possibility.”
Carlos Ruano, 67, was charged with felony molestation after a 2012 incident at his Eastside home. Ruano told detectives that while he was watching three young children at his Eastside home, his step-granddaughter’s brother jumped on her, causing her to suffer stomach pain. Ruano said that he rubbed ointment on her stomach to alleviate the pain and that he may have accidentally touched the girl’s underwear near her vagina. The girl — seven years old at the time — claimed that Ruano also rubbed beneath her underwear, licked her breast, and exposed his penis. Ruano would go on to tell detectives that he thought the girl’s mother, then in the process of divorcing the girl’s father, told her daughter to make those accusations.
For more than seven years, Ruano worked at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito as a sexton responsible for building maintenance. Throughout the trial, Ladinig said, people from the church showed up to lend their support. “We’re disappointed that we didn’t get a conviction, but we also felt strong because the majority of the jurors were convinced of his guilt,” Ladinig said. Ruano’s defense attorney didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Ladinig said that the date for a potential future trial will be chosen on October 4, but added that a settlement could also be likely. If he had been convicted of the charges, Ruano could have faced up to eight years in prison. Ladinig said that Ruano will remain in custody while the lawyers determine how to proceed.