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Victim’s claims focus of prelim

Former officer accused of rape of minor

Madera County Sheriff’s Office detective testified Friday on his investigation and arrest of a former Chowchilla police officer who has been charged with sex crimes with a minor.

Tyler Hormel, 35, who served as a school resource officer in Chowchilla, faces charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor (including two counts of forcible rape) and three counts of unlawful sexual acts with a minor under the age of 16. He has also been charged with having an unlawful relationship with a minor.

The alleged victim, known in the courtroom as “Jane Doe,” was Hormel’s foster daughter.

“(Then) Lt. Bill Ward contacted me and told me that there was a 14-year-old girl complaining that an officer had molested her,” said sheriff’s Detective John Grayson at a preliminary hearing in Madera County Superior Court.

The incidents, according to Grayson, began on Christmas Eve, 2015, as Hormel was giving the alleged victim a ride home. “Jane Doe said she had been in Valley Children’s Hospital,” said Grayson. “And on the way home, he pulled over somewhere between the hospital and the house.” It was then, according to Grayson’s report of the victim’s testimony, that Hormel molested Doe. The victim also claimed she was forcibly raped by Hormel, Grayson said, with the first incident in January.

Hormel was arrested in February, at a mental hospital in Sacramento.

The defense, however, led by attorney Michael McKneely, claimed that one witness, a friend of Jane Doe, and the friend’s mother had caught the victim in “lie, after lie, after lie.” McKneely also countered the claims of forcible rape by reading a series of text messages reportedly sent by the alleged victim. In these texts, defense indicated that the alleged victim had been pursuing Hormel romantically.

The prosecution, however, led by Deputy District Attorney Traci Wise, objected that the texts did not void charges of rape, and stated that Hormel had taken advantage of the victim, who may have been fond of him.

“I don’t take these cases lightly, and whether it be a police officer, or John Q citizen, I want to make sure that before we charge a case, we believe the acts alleged in that complaint did in fact occur, and they were unlawful,” Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn said. “Because our obligation is to do justice, and we want to protect the public, we want to protect the youths in Madera County. But by the same token, we are not going to be about charging people who we are not convinced committed an unlawful act.”

“I am deeply saddened by the arrest,” Chowchilla Police Chief David Riviere said in a public statement. “My heart goes out to the victim, the Hormel family, the staff at the Police Department, city staff, the school district, and the entire Chowchilla community.”

Another court date has been set for Sep. 2, where an information arraignment is expected to be held.


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