“A month-long trial ended Friday in Merced County when a former pastor was convicted of raping his two adopted daughters for many years before shooting them and another man in 2016.
Raul Diaz Moreno, who once led the Victory Outreach church, opened fire Oct. 28, 2016, shooting one of the girls in the head and the other in the leg outside his home on Beckman Way in Merced. The now 54-year-old Merced man also shot another man who was helping the young women, the Merced Police Department reported.
One of the victims in the case, Brianna Moreno, now 18, told reporters she was looking forward to starting a “new chapter” in her life.
“Darkness always comes to light,” she said. “And it did today. Justice got served today.”
The shooting in 2016 prompted a nearly three-hour standoff with Merced police in which Diaz Moreno initially intended to end his own life, prosecutors said during the trial. Police said Diaz Moreno fired three shots at officers during the standoff. Police eventually convinced Diaz Moreno to surrender and he was taken into custody.
During the month-long trial, prosecutors Scott Drexel and Katie Gates described a life of abandonment and abuse that victimized the young sisters from an early age. Taken in by Diaz Moreno after they essentially were abandoned by their mother early on, the sisters were sexually abused beginning as early as kindergarten, according to prosecutors.
Violence erupted outside the home in 2016 when the older sister, who had moved out months earlier, returned to the home to take her younger sister away, prosecutors said. Diaz Moreno tried to prevent the youngest sister from leaving with the older sister and that sister’s boyfriend.
“They stayed silent for so many years because they were afraid they’d lose everything,” Drexel said. “He threatened to kill himself and to kill them if they ever told anybody.”
The trial that began May 1 ended Friday after a Merced County jury deliberated for two days. The jurors found Diaz Moreno guilty of all 14 charges, including multiple counts of attempted murder, assault, shooting at police, aggravated sexual assault, sodomy by force, lewd acts and oral copulation with minors.
He faces a minimum of 120 years to life in prison, Drexel said Friday.
“I’m so happy for the (victims) in the case, they really did face down evil,” Drexel said. “Their entire family abandoned them; refused to believe them, but the justice system did believe them. The truth was undeniable.”
Diaz Moreno’s attorney, Kathy Lynn Trosclair, sees the case much differently. Trosclair on Friday blasted the verdict, describing it as a “total miscarriage of justice.”
“There was not a single shred of supporting evidence,” Trosclair said of the sexual assault charges. “These alleged victims gave so many contradictory accounts of what happened. They even contradicted each other several times during their testimony.”
Trosclair declined to provide specific examples of conflicting testimony, saying she didn’t want to disclose details ahead of her client’s appeal of the verdict, which she said already is planned. She also indicated Diaz Moreno may seek a motion for a new trial.
“We’re very disappointed in the verdict,” she said. “This was a travesty of justice. It’s injustice at its finest.”
Raquel Rios, the lead detective in the sexual abuse investigation, said the verdict was satisfying. Rios described the case, which included investigations into the abuse, the shooting and the attack on police, as “difficult and chaotic” and “emotionally draining” for the victims.
“These girls have been shunned from the only family they once knew,” Rios said. “It brings me happiness and hope that all who were negatively affected can heal especially both the survivors of sexual abuse. They were believed and they believed in the justice system.”
Drexel said he also was happy that “some really good people” have since come into the sisters’ lives.
Brianna Moreno said she had “a good feeling” on Friday.
“It’s time to start a new life with my new family,” she said.
Diaz Moreno remains in custody in Merced County. Sentencing is set for July 2 before Judge Ronald W. Hansen in Merced County Superior Court.”