ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced today that Dennis Moreno,55, of Norwalk, Calif. entered an Alford plea to one count of sex abuse of a minor and was sentenced to 18 years of active incarceration on March 24, 2022.
“It’s beyond devastating that a child’s great uncle would not only abuse his own niece but also that he was given this kind of access to her despite their extended family’s knowledge of his history of abusing another child in the family. Instead of reporting him perhaps preventing the abuse of this victim, the defendant’s family looked the other way,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “The victim, now a teenager, lived with this pain for years as the defendant exploited and abused her as he had done to her older cousin. It is because of her remarkable strength in coming forward, that the defendant will finally be held accountable for his despicable actions. This victim, and her cousin, now 32 years old, both suffered from the inaction of people who stood silent and did nothing to protect them.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Maria Stamidis prosecuted this case on behalf of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.
On November 16, 2020, detectives with the Anne Arundel County Police Department along with the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services were notified of a case involving a minor victim who was sexually abused by her great uncle. The victim initially disclosed the abuse to her therapist. The victim stated the defendant touched her private area and the abuse happened so often it became normal to her. The defendant told her to stay silent and “keep it between them and not tell anybody else.”
On November 20, 2020, a trained forensic interviewer at the Child Advocacy Center in Millersville interviewed the now 15-year-old victim following her disclosure. She advised that starting around the age of five she was sexually abused repeatedly by her great uncle at her grandmother’s home in Davidsonville where the defendant also lived. The victim initially disclosed the abuse to a family member and the defendant was kicked out of the house and moved to Los Angeles. Upon hearing of the great uncle’s arrest, a 32-year-old woman also came forward in California and reported that she had been sexually assaulted by the defendant when she was aged 7-12, and he had threatened to do the same to her younger sister. She reported the abuse to her family but they did not call the authorities. Prosecutors had given notice that they intended to use this “other crimes evidence” against the defendant at trial, and informed the sentencing judge of the defendant’s pattern of sexual abuse of minors.
The Honorable Schaeffer presided over the case. During the sentencing hearing, Judge Schaeffer remarked that while many people had failed both the victim and her cousin, the judge’s sentence would reflect that she would not and sentenced him at the top of the Maryland guidelines for his crime.
The State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that if they know someone who is a victim of sexual abuse, please encourage them to tell a trusted person or call the Sexual Assault Crisis Center and Hotline at 410-222-6800 for support.