A Kelso man formerly employed as a Child Protective Services case worker is facing charges of third-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes after he allegedly sexually abused a child under his care.
Martin Daniel Perez, 36, made a video first appearance Thursday on a summons in Clark County Superior Court. Judge John Fairgrieve granted Perez, who was out of custody, supervised release but ordered he appear in person by Feb. 9 to be booked and released. He is set to be arraigned Feb. 14, court records show.
Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families communications administrator Nancy Gutierrez said Friday that Perez started as a caseworker in November 2015.
He resigned May 17, 2021. However, he was under investigation during this time related to a criminal case in Cowlitz County and placed on home assignment starting March 25, 2021, through his resignation, Gutierrez said.
Court records show Perez appeared in Cowlitz County Superior Court on suspicion of first-degree child molestation in March 2021, but the case was dismissed a year later.
The Clark County victim, now 20, disclosed to a CPS worker she was sexually abused by Perez while in foster care in Yacolt, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Charging information lists the incidents happening between 2016 and 2021.
Perez was the assigned case worker for the victim when she was 13 or 14 years old. He created a social media account to send her photos and said he wanted to marry her when she turned 18, according to court documents.
CPS records show Perez drove from Kelso to Yacolt for safety visits with the victim, then drove her to Battle Ground to get coffee. A CPS administrator advised driving such a long distance is abnormal. The victim reported the last time Perez drove her to get coffee, he sexually abused her on the way home, the affidavit states.
The victim was on the run from age 15 to 18 due to the situation with Perez, according to court documents. He continued to contact her through Instagram and exposed himself in pictures and a video chat, court records say.
In the 2021 Cowlitz County case, Perez was accused of molesting an 11-year-old between August 2018 and June 2019. It was unclear if the connection between Perez and the 11-year-old was related to his work for the state agency, according to The Longview Daily News. The charges were later dismissed due to “issues in proof.”
CPS urges anyone who suspects child abuse related to the Clark County case to report it to law enforcement or its statewide end harm line at 866-262-4276.