GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Sheriff Michelle Cook’s voice shook on April 14 when she talked about the bravery of a 12-year-old girl who came forward to talk about ongoing sexual abuse from a Clay County …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Sheriff Michelle Cook’s voice shook on April 14 when she talked about the bravery of a 12-year-old girl who came forward to talk about ongoing sexual abuse from a Clay County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
“I mean for a young person a young woman to a young lady to come forward at 12 years of age to disclose such a difficult thing, she’s a very, very brave young girl,” Cook said.
Then the sheriff’s jaw clenched and her words became more pointed.
“These cases can be difficult to investigate but there is no higher calling than ensuring the safety of the children of this community,” she said. “It is always disappointing when a deputy tarnishes the badge, but we have so many more who remain committed to honoring their oath to protect and serve our community by holding criminals accountable. Even if that criminal wears a badge.”
According to Cook and the arrest report, a girl was crying hysterically when she told her mother on April 12 about an incident that happened earlier in the day. She said Paul Sergio Ferreira Mauricio, 49, had been sexually abusing her since she was 11. She told her mother she was “tired of it” and wanted the abuse to stop, according to CCSO.
She said the abuse happened several times. The First Coast Child’s Protection Team at UF Health in Jacksonville interviewed and examined the girl and found her claims of inappropriate sexual conduct to be credible.
A day later on April 13, Mauricio was questioned by CCSO detectives and he originally “adamantly” denied the allegations, but he also said he’d made a “big mistake” and didn’t know how to fix it. Mauricio then started crying, according to the arrest report, and admitted he had sexually assaulted the pre-teen.
He believed the abuse started in February of 2021 and it ended a day before his arrest. He estimated he had more than 50 encounters with the girl during that span. Mauricio had been a patrol deputy with the agency for eight years, Cook said. She said his suspension was upgraded to termination once he was arrested.
The former deputy from Lakeside is being charged with capital sexual battery of a child 11 or younger and custodial sexual battery of a child at least 12. He is being held at the Clay County Jail without bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 10.
While investigators and prosecutors work to prepare their case against Mauricio, Cook said the agency also will be working with partners to provide support for the girl and her family.
“We are in the process of working with a family and our victim’s advocates to offer them any and all available. services to support them,” she said. “The victim was known to Mauricio but their specific relationship will not be disclosed as we will not be giving any information that can identify the victim in the case.”
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