BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — She told herself she would wait until Frank Mark Sanchez died before disclosing how he sexually abused her for years, starting when she was 5.
She didn’t hold back to spare Sanchez from prison, but out of fear her brother would kill him and end up behind bars himself.
But she couldn’t stop wondering if Sanchez — whose ex-girlfriend, Tauney Lee Van Sickle, also engaged in sex acts with the minor which Sanchez filmed — had chosen a new victim. In August 2017, the then-19-year-old went to police.
“Even the most disgusting people know you do not mess with children,” the woman said Monday as she addressed the defendants at their sentencing hearing, at times overcome with emotion and struggling to speak, at times venting anger and once pounding the podium as she described how their actions changed her life.
Sanchez, 58, former owner of the Green Room bar on Chester Avenue, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Van Sickle, 36, who previously worked as a nurse, got 12 years. Both must register as sex offenders.
Sanchez admitted to the abuse in phone calls with the victim and her mother recorded by police, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in April to committing sex acts with a child 10 or younger.
Van Sickle, who was free on bail, had rejected a six-year offer from the prosecution and decided to roll the dice by entering an open plea — pleading no-contest to all counts in the hope the court would give her a lesser term. She ended up getting double.
According to the documents, Van Sickle admitted to engaging in sex acts with the girl filmed by Sanchez for a “sex blog.” The girl was around 10 at the time.
While the victim spoke, Van Sickle wiped at her eyes with tissues and kept looking at the audience, where a number of friends and family were seated. Sanchez kept his head bowed, at times slowly shaking it.
With prosecutor Felicia Nagle at her side, the woman told the court she didn’t attend the hearing seeking sympathy from the defendants or a payout.
“No amount of money could take away the discomfort I have to live with for the rest of my life,” she said.
It’s the policy of 17 News not to report the names of victims of sexual abuse unless they publicly come forward.
During the years of abuse, Sanchez put up a good front, holding down jobs and coming across as a likeable guy while molesting her behind closed doors, the woman said.
Later, Van Sickle entered the picture. She participated in sex acts with her while Sanchez filmed and told them what to do, according to the woman. Van Sickle participated at least five times over a half-year period.
After Sanchez and Van Sickle broke up, the abuse from Sanchez continued. The woman said she didn’t know how to get free of him.
“I felt smothered but at the same time he was my only friend,” she said.
She cut herself and suffered panic attacks. She contemplated killing herself. Her mother took her to therapists.
Eventually, the abuse stopped. She graduated high school and started working. Sanchez, in his 50s, began dating her best friend from high school.
“He had a shiny new toy and kicked me to the curb,” the woman said.
It was during a car ride with her mother she decided she couldn’t keep quiet anymore. She asked her mom to pull over, then told her everything.
Before sentencing, David A. Torres, Van Sickle’s attorney, read a letter from his client in which she said she suffered along with the victim.
“I was young, stupid, lost, immature and gullible,” she wrote.
She turned her life, is now engaged and has a 3-year-old son, Van Sickle wrote, expressing hope that someday the woman and her mother can forgive her.
Torres asked the court to sentence his client to probation, arguing she was not at risk to reoffend, was remorseful and had been manipulated by Sanchez, who was twice her age when they dated.
Nagle, the prosecutor, countered that Van Sickle knew right from wrong and was a willing participant. Some of the videos show her laughing.
After hearing attorneys’ comments, Judge John W. Lua said he believed Van Sickle was truly remorseful and has a lot of family support. Her crimes, however, made her ineligible for probation, and he found the victim to be particularly vulnerable and the crimes to involve planning and sophistication.
The judge decided to sentence her to the middle term of 12 years. He could have sentenced her to as few as six years or as many as 16.
The victim’s mother, who briefly addressed the court, said Van Sickle made a choice to repeatedly sexually abuse a child and doesn’t deserve leniency.
Van Sickle’s child, conceived after her arrest, was a bid for sympathy, according to the mother, and Van Sickle will have to resign herself to some tough conversations with her son in the years ahead.
“I don’t envy her the task of explaining to her child, “Mommy rapes children,'” she said.