A few months ago, Daniel Ornelas, a 43-year-old employee of the Modesto City High School District, began an apparently consensual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, a student at Thomas Downey High School, where Ornelas worked as a suspension room monitor.
The first problem, of course, is that the law in California does not regard anyone under 18 to be of legal age of consent, and that any sexual activity with a minor by an adult is considered statutory rape. As an employee of the school district, Ornelas would have also been exposed to training in the law, and the expected code of conduct for anyone with access to children, even those who may be “nearly” 18 and at age of consent. And even those who have turned 18, while still students, are considered off limits to any kind of sexual contact from school personnel.
According to Heather Graves of the Modesto Police Department, another school staff member had reported a possible romantic relationship between Ornelas and the girl. The Modesto PD Special Victim’s Unit opened an investigation, and learned that the two had been involved in a sexual relationship since February. The Modesto Bee reported that Ornelas may also have been a girl’s soccer coach at the school, but he is no longer listed on the school’s website in that (or any) capacity. Social media commentators have also stated that he coached varsity soccer and area youth leagues.
On Tuesday, May 26, detectives arrested Ornelas and charged him with unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. They stated that they believe this relationship was an isolated incident, but that the investigation is ongoing. Other past victims may yet come forward. Anyone with any information is encouraged to call the Modesto Police, or the CrimeStoppers line at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters may also text information to Crime Stoppers at 274637. Just type “TIP704” along with the message.