A mom in Virginia claims her 9-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by a MetroPCS employee while she was at a nearby gym.
According to 13 News Now, the mother left her daughter at the MetroPCS store to play with some of the electronics while she took a class at a shop called Direct Nutrition.
Witnesses later revealed that many parents typically leave their children together at the store to play with the electronics while they take a Zumba class at Direct Nutrition, which is in the same strip mall.
The mother in question has reportedly been leaving her daughter in the store for about a year.
At some point during that year, according to police, 36-year-old Gerardo Israel Strauss began taking the 9-year-old girl into the back of the store, where he had assembled some bedding, and sexually assaulted her.
The girl finally told a school counselor about the ongoing molestation in April, and the counselor immediately called the authorities.
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At this time, investigators don’t know exactly how long the inappropriate behavior has been going on for, but they say Strauss had plenty of time to groom the girl.
“We see this a lot in sexual assault cases with offenders taking a long time to groom their victims, so maybe just with the continued pattern of dropping kids off there, that gave him time to kind of think this out,” said Officer James McLellan, Public Information officer for Irving Police.
Because the girl’s mother was right next door and she never knowingly exposed her to the abuse, she is not currently facing any neglect charges. Meanwhile, Strauss is facing aggravated sexual assault charges.
While investigating authorities haven’t blamed the little girl’s mother for what happened, many people online do.
“Who just leaves their child in a business to go to a dance class? NOT that this is the moms fault but a little common sense would sure go a long way. If you can afford the zumba class you can afford a babysitter where your child is safe,” one woman commented on the 13 News Now Facebook page.
“I am not a victim shamer and I hope the guy in this store is punished to the full extent of the law where he can do no harm ever again. But also I hope this story serves as an example to parents that leaving children unattended in stores is not a safe alternative.
Things happen and even babysitters we trust break that trust but even beyond the horrific nature of what happened to this girl and possibly other children these kids also could of been abducted,” another added.