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Hemet man arrested for child sexual abuse of family member

March 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A Hemet man has been arrested, suspected of sexual abusing a family member for years beginning when she was a child. This all came to light when investigators went to the man's home in Hemet on reports of other allegations.

Investigators say they discovered the incestuous relationship when they received a phone call about lewd photos of underage girls being taken inside a residence in Hemet. Investigators said they're worried there may be further victims.

It came as a shock to Al Hollis to learn his neighbor of 10 years, Efrain Bernal, had been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a child.

"I'll tell you what, that is the first time I've heard of anything like that because it is really pretty a quiet house," said Hollis. "I do know there's a lot of kids there."

On Wednesday, Riverside County Sheriff's deputies went to Bernal's home in Hemet after receiving a call about lewd photos involving underage girls. Investigators say Bernal had convinced the victims to strip naked and pose for pictures as part of a religious ceremony.

"I don't know if they were completely disrobed, but they were nude and they're considered explicit photos," said Riverside County Sheriff's Sergeant Joe Borja.

"Part of the investigation showed that he was sexually assaulting a family member," said Borja.

While interviewing Bernal's family members, investigators say they learned Bernal had sexually abused a woman in the home. They say the abuse began 10 years ago when the victim was still a child.

For Hollis it's not the picture of the neighbor he thought he knew.

"There is no room for someone to do that to children, and I just don't understand it why they would be, but they've been there for a long time, I know that," said Hollis.

Bernal is charged with four felony counts of sexual misconduct with a child. He was held at the Southwest Valley Detention Center on $1 million bail.

If you have information related to the case, contact the Riverside County Sheriff's Hemet Station at (951) 791-3400.