The Coast News Group
Garcia and Hernandez: Inez Martinez Garcia and her husband Marcial Garcia Hernandez sit in court on Dec. 18. Their next hearing will be Feb. 28. Photo by Rachel Stine
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Preliminary court date set for O’side couple

VISTA — A preliminary hearing date has been set for later this month to present evidence in court against an Oceanside couple charged with enslaving a 12-year-old Mexican girl for sex in the early 2000s. 

Inez Martinez Garcia, 43, and her husband Marcial Garcia Hernandez, 45, both pled not guilty to 26 felony counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child occurring between June 2001 and June 2002.

If convicted of all charges, the defendants face up to 390 years to life each in prison.

After allegedly working as a slave and being sold for sex by the couple for over two years, the victim was taken into protective custody and returned to her family in Mexico. Police were called when Garcia allegedly beat the victim severely.

Members of the North County Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Garcia and Hernandez on Nov. 29 outside of their home in Oceanside.

The case has just been reopened because the victim, now an adult, has moved back to the U.S. and come forward to law enforcement.

On Tuesday, attorneys and court officials set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 28 at the Vista Courthouse, according to Garcia’s attorney Bill O’Connell.

At the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Gretchen Means will present witnesses before the judge to establish reasonable belief that the crimes did occur and that Garcia and Hernandez were the perpetrators of those crimes, according to O’Connell.

Means will decide whether or not the victim will testify at the preliminary hearing, said O’Connell.

If the judge decides that there is reasonable belief of the crimes and that the defendants committed those crimes, the case will eventually go to trial, where the victim will have to testify.