• April 2, 2020

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Carrasco charges dismissed by DA

Odessan jailed, indicted was the wrong man

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    Erik Carrasco sits for his portrait Thursday afternoon after he was falsely arrested and charged with indecency with a child with sexual contact, and improper relationship between an educator and student. Carrasco's charges were dropped on March 18th, but he has already lost his job as a mechanical engineer due to his false arrest.

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2020 5:19 pm

Carrasco, 29, was indicted by an Ector County grand jury in December 2019, a list of indictments in the Odessa American showed. The incident allegedly occurred at Crockett Middle School. Carrasco said he had been an AVID tutor at Ector Middle School, but was a student at University of Texas Permian Basin at the time of the incident and was never a tutor at Crockett.

The charges have now been dismissed — as of March 18. The motion to dismiss says, “The defendant, Erik Carrasco ..., was misidentified by the referring law enforcement agency.” The motion was made before 358th District Court Judge W. Stacy Trotter, the document shows.

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said when the information was given to him there was no reason to doubt it and it was presented to the grand jury.

ECISD Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said in an email that in October, a female student at Crockett Middle School made an outcry, saying a substitute teacher named Erik Carrasco touched her inappropriately. ECISD police began an investigation of an ECISD employee with a similar name. Officers attempted to contact him. He did not return their phone call. ECISD police then turned over all reports to the district attorney’s office for review. In actuality, the man accused was not a substitute teacher but a classroom facilitator, Erik Carrasco, hired by a third-party vendor, meaning he was not listed in our employee files but shared a similar name with our ECISD employee.

"We owe Mr. Carrasco an apology. This was our mistake. We sincerely regret putting him through this ordeal. We understand now how it occurred, and we are putting procedures in place to ensure something like this does not happen again," the email said.

A few weeks ago, Bland said he talked to Odessa defense attorney Michael McLeaish and that he  “was pretty adamant he (Erik Ortega Carrasco) wasn’t the person.”

“Because of the process of the report there was misidentification by the school district relating to the identity of the person and the specifics of the identity of the person,” Bland said.

He would not discuss details of how he was misidentified but when asked what happened to the suspect who did it, Bland said he couldn’t discuss it.

“We’ve been in touch with the referring agency and told them have to be more vigilant, to make sure the proper person is referred so this doesn't happen again,” Bland said.

Carrasco said he had an expired registration sticker on his truck and was pulled over by DPS as he was getting off of work at Emerson.

“I had an old registration sticker on my truck, except I had the brand-new one. My truck was broken down and I fixed it Sunday, so I finally had it working on Monday. I just hadn’t put the registration sticker on on Monday, so I still had the old one on. So I get pulled over by a state trooper and then I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was going to be a routine traffic stop, but he soon told me that I had two warrants out for my arrest — one for indecency with a child and then having an improper relationship with an educator/student,” Carrasco said.

“I didn’t know anything about it. I was shocked, obviously, and when he told me, I got pretty anxious, pretty scared. It’s actually kind of scary going through all that. So he took me to jail. I was in there for four days I didn’t eat; I didn’t sleep. You can only imagine how jail is, especially with those kinds of charges. It was very stressful,” Carrasco said.

McLeaish said he posted the bond for Carrasco. Carrasco said the bond was $100,000 so that meant he had to pay $10,000.

Carrasco said he told McLeaish he didn’t do it. He had just graduated in December 2019 from the University of Texas Permian Basin with a degree in engineering.

His final semester, he didn’t work outside of school because he was taking 15 hours.

“I was busy in the library all day, studying all day long, every single weekend so I had messages with my friends that said I was at the UTPB library on Oct. 23, 2019, which supposedly when they said I was at Crockett and I had touched a little girl. … But when I traced it back, I accounted for the entire week and obviously I would never do that. That’s not who I am ... Those are some pretty serious allegations …,” Carrasco said.

He told his friend he was with two people at the library working on a group project.

“I called them and I told them. I wanted to keep it on the low because the media hadn’t gotten a hold of it until maybe like two weeks later. Newswest 9 got a hold of it, which pretty much then I got phone calls from everybody saying what is going on. Obviously, my closest friends and family, they knew I didn’t do it. People who know me knew I didn’t do this, but you know there’s always those people there that are just going to any chance they get to attack your character …,” he said.

He said the whole experience was very stressful.

“… How are you going to tell your friends and family that you’re getting charged for this even though I was innocent? I was under house arrest for the past month. I lost my job. Just the whole situation; just thinking about having to go to jail. “

Erik Ortega Carrasco said he has no idea how law enforcement got his name. He worked at Ector as an AVID tutor, but had never been to Crockett.

“But the papers and the little girl said it was a substitute teacher at Crockett, so when the lawyer told me that. I was like I’ve never been a sub in my life. I don’t even know if I have the credentials to be a substitute teacher, but I’ve never even worked at Crockett and you know the students that I started with they’re already in high school. I have a friend that’s an OHS teacher and even my old students were like Erik would never do that because they know me. I was a tutor,” Erik Ortega Carrasco said.

He found out March 18 that the charges had been dropped.

“I feel like the Earth is finally off my back. You know that picture of the guy holding up the Earth? That’s me and it slid off. It’s not that it’s just scary because I didn’t do this, but there are plenty of innocent people in jail like right now …,” he said.

The good thing, though, is that his friends, family and girlfriend have stuck by him.

“They all know who I am, so I didn’t lose them. But I did lose my job,” Erik Ortega Carrasco said.

The story on him from the TV station is what comes up first when you Google his name, so when he’s looking for another job that’s what they’re going to notice and he said that’s not fair. 

 “That stays with me forever.”

He added that he also has undergone mental, emotional and physical stress of being in jail.

“Oh my God. That was the worst. That was the absolute worst; not being able to do pretty much anything here either.  I love being at home rather than jail, but (it’s) still pretty nerve racking,” he said.

His mother said Erik struggled so much to get his bachelor’s degree because he lost his brother and father two years apart. His brother died in a head-on collision that killed him, his passenger and the person in another vehicle.

Two years later, his father died of kidney cancer.

When the charges were dropped, he told his mother and she was joyful.

“You can imagine we were jumping for joy,” Margie Carrasco said.

Erik said he thought it was going to take longer because of the coronavirus situation.

“I thought they weren’t going to go to court for at least a year or something. Then when Michael McLeaish calls me he’s like, ‘Hey, all the charges are dismissed. You’re free to go,’” Erik Ortega Carrasco said.

He added that he’s glad he had McLeaish represent him. Erik Ortega Carrasco said he had heard great things about him.

“… He’s real old school, too. That’s what I like about him,” he said.

Erik Ortega Carrasco said the media destroyed his name and everybody saw it. He added that he would never work for ECISD or any school district again.

An Odessa native, he said this experience has changed how he feels about the city.

“They failed me. As a local, they straight failed me,” he said.

Erik Ortega Carrasco said he never wants anyone else to go through this.  

“He just wants his reputation cleared,” McLeaish said. “He’s a young man, just started off in life.”

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