A community leader is charged with sexually abusing children, then disappears.
By any measure, Frank Montenegro was a hero. At the age of twenty-four, both of Frank’s parents suddenly died, leaving behind Frank and five siblings who were under the age of eighteen. Frank immediately gave up his carefree life in San Diego and moved back to his hometown of Hayward, California, to raise his orphaned brothers and sisters. Manuel Montengro referred to his brother, Frank, as an angel:
Soon the story of Frank’s sacrifice was national news. Numerous newspapers and magazines proclaimed how Frank’s generosity should be a lesson to us all. To support his family, Frank taught special education at the local elementary school. He seemed to be not only the perfect teacher, but also the perfect citizen. He was an avid churchgoer, a devoted family man, and a compassionate mentor to troubled kids. Known affectionately as “Mr. Monty”, Frank Montenegro was admired and trusted by virtually everyone.
But all that changed when the mother of a boy in Montenegro’s class, Patricia Jackson, made a strange discovery:
Frank Montenegro seemed to be someone who cared deeply about children. Police were now faced with a troubling dilemma. Was Montenegro the upstanding citizen he appeared to be? Or did he, in fact, prey upon innocent children? The allegation against Frank Montenegro landed on the desk of Fremont, California, police detective Teresa Martinez. An officer since the age of 22, Martinez quickly made the rank of detective and now worked on the sexual assault unit:
Detective Martinez had enough experience with children to know that their accounts are not always accurate, so she had to corroborate the boy’s story. She brought him to a child specialist who questioned the boy further. Martinez watched the interview on a video monitor:
Despite her doubts, Martinez immediately interviewed all the children in the boy’s class. They all denied seeing anything. She decided to interview the boy again. This time, the boy admitted that he had lied about the other students seeing the assault. He said he was scared during the first interview and thought his lie would end the questioning. But according to Teresa, the boy claimed that Frank Montenegro did, in fact, attack him:
Detective Martinez searched Montenegro’s classroom, where the victim said the incident took place. As she made her way to the back, she found something she did not expect to see at an elementary school. Through a nondescript door were two hidden rooms. Theresa claimed the rooms were separated by a two-way mirror:
When Martinez returned the next day, the two-way mirror had been replaced with a regular pane of glass. Fearing that Montenegro might suddenly have become aware of her investigation, Martinez shifted into high gear. She had a search warrant secured for Montenegro’s home:
Montenegro was not home during the search, but a female relative was. Detective Martinez says the relative then made a disturbing revelation.
After hearing about the possibility of a second incident, Martinez brought Montenegro in for questioning:
But it was still the word of a little boy who had already lied against that of a well-respected teacher and community leader. For charges as serious as child abuse, it wasn’t enough for an arrest warrant. To seal her case, Detective Martinez needed the testimony from a second victim. She discovered that a neighboring police department held an outstanding complaint against Montenegro involving another boy. Fearing that Montenegro might take off, Martinez raced to the school and pulled the boy out of class for an interview:
Detective Martinez claimed that, after gentle questioning, the boy finally revealed the unsettling details of Montenegro’s assault:
Martinez now had the corroboration she needed to arrest Frank Montenegro. But it was too late. Montenegro was already long gone. Six days after he was interviewed by police, a car rented in his name was found abandoned more than a thousand miles away in La Paz, Mexico. Montenegro’s whereabouts are currently unknown, but police believe he has likely returned to the United States. Frank Montenegro is 5’10” tall, and when last seen, weighed 230 pounds. He has friends in the San Diego area and family in Kansas.
Frank Montenegro was arrested in Los Angeles, California, on August 12, 2015 after a foot chase and a struggle. The LAPD received a tip about Montenegro’s location, and learned he had been living under an alias. Montenegro was convicted and sentenced to 195 years to life.