Sexual assault conviction a shocking end to military career
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 30, 2009
Crystal Trevino was at work when the police came.
Go home, they said. Something has happened.
A registered nurse working in the River Hospital emergency room near Fort Drum, N.Y., she was used to seeing trauma and trouble. But what had happened seemed unimaginable.
Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Juan Trevino, had been accused of rape.
His own niece — a teenager who regarded him as her father, whom he’d help raise since she was a toddler when the couple rescued her from a relative’s unstable home — had called 911. She was saying that Trevino had been sexually molesting her for years.
Crystal, 35, couldn’t grasp it. How could her husband be capable of it? She’d been married to him close to half her life, he was the father of her children, he knew about the struggles she herself had faced after being molested as a child.
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She looked at the teenager, whom she refers to as her daughter.
“I said, ‘Please tell me you’re lying,’ ” Crystal recalled. “And I saw my daughter’s face, and I knew the truth.”
Trevino, also 35, had come home from Iraq last October, like thousands of other soldiers, to cheers and applause and a family overjoyed to have him back.
But six months later, he was a suspect, then a fugitive and finally a convicted sex offender whose family wanted nothing to do with him.
In June, he pleaded guilty as charged in Jefferson County Court in New York to a “course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree,” according to court records and the prosecutor. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
Confined at the Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, N.Y., Trevino could not be reached for comment.
It was a shocking event — and the end of a career — for a man the Army considered an exemplary soldier and role model.
“Trevino? Sergeant Trevino?” said an incredulous Capt. Matt Lee, when he heard the news of Trevino’s conviction. Lee had commanded the Triple Deuce’s Bravo Company for 14 months in Iraq and thought highly of Trevino, who had been with Charlie Company.
“Oh my gosh,” Lee said from his new assignment at Fort Irwin, Calif. “I’ve been looking for him out here because I wanted him on my team.”
Known as John to his friends, Trevino was an Army Ranger with a chest full of ribbons who’d been chosen for every Army school imaginable. He’d risen steadily through the ranks, responsible for platoons, and then companies, of soldiers.
But some of Trevino’s soldiers said they saw his dark side. He made remarks about women so denigrating that they gave even infantrymen pause, they said. And although Trevino had soldiers to his house for barbeques, he was often a violent, punishing presence, some of his former comrades said.
“I always thought he’d end up in prison,” said Dave Johnson, a lawyer and former sergeant with the Triple Deuce. “But I thought it would be for killing someone in a bar fight.”
Trevino, Johnson said, enjoyed choking soldiers until they passed out, practicing hand-to-hand combatives training.
“A lot of people took to that,” Johnson said. “We’d have full platoon brawls. It was a weird environment.”
One time, Johnson said, Trevino, then his platoon sergeant, ordered him to beat up another soldier.
“I said, ‘Why would I want to do that?’ He said, ‘Because then he’ll be your bitch forever.’ ”
“He was considered a successful soldier,” Johnson said. “His personality disorder … is considered a good thing. The military is very clueless.”
The Army has long heaped praise on soldiers’ spouses, lauding them for their own bravery and resilience during repeated deployments, and promising them help and support in tough times. But Crystal ended up alone in her ordeal. The Army, she said, turned out to be less than helpful.
After police responded to the teenager’s 911 call, Trevino, who apparently had a spotless military record, was arrested for having unregistered weapons at his house.
He was turned over to military custody and “restricted to barracks” but soon escaped.
Crystal said Trevino left her a note, prompting her to flee with the children to a hotel. She was terrified he might come for them. She phoned the base.
“They were like, ‘No, he’s still in the barracks,’ ” she said.
Trevino had a shotgun with him, she said, that the military authorities had somehow let him bring from home. “They assured me there was no room in his bag for his shotgun,” Crystal said.
He turned himself in after three days, according to newspaper accounts and police detectives.
Crystal said the Army “family” of wives and sergeants and commanders offered little assistance or consolation after Trevino was charged and convicted.
“Not a single member of the [Family Readiness Group] has called,” Crystal said. “No one.”
Crystal knew her husband had anger problems. At home, he was “strict,” she said. “He was never violent. He just yelled.”
The family had ups and downs. In the early years, money was tight. But, “we all missed him terribly when he was gone,” said Crystal. “I thought we had a great life.”
Yet there was an awful secret.
Starting when she was about eleven, Trevino’s niece later told authorities, Trevino would come into her room early in the morning and get in bed with her. The teenager has told Crystal she pretended to sleep through the assaults. She never told anyone.
The abuse happened frequently, according to the teenager, after Crystal went off to work her thrice-weekly 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. hospital shift.
“He was dressed. His truck was running. I’d give him a kiss goodbye and leave,” Crystal said. “That whole charade of his going to work …”
When Trevino returned from Iraq in October, the girl hoped the abuse would not recur. And for six months, he stayed away, the teenager said.
“I wasn’t expecting it to happen again,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe it’s over…’ ”
But when Trevino did it again, she said, she realized she had to say something.
“I just couldn’t take it,” the teenager said, adding that she worried her younger sister would also become a victim. “She was getting older.”
Over and over in her mind, Crystal has asked herself if she had missed any signs of abuse. She wondered why her daughter had not come to her, especially after all the times she’d warned the children to tell her if anyone touched them. She would believe them, she always said, because it had happened to her when she was young.
The girl said fear kept her quiet.
“I was just so scared of him,” she said. “He yells a lot — he always scared me. I didn’t know what he’d do.”
Crystal and the children have moved away from Fort Drum, back home to Maryland. They go to counseling, take antidepressants and, all things considered, say they are doing well.
Crystal is in the process of divorcing Trevino. She said she hasn’t spoken to him since he was arrested, but she has heard that he’s perplexed about how things turned out.
“I think about how he could be in my bed one day and the same day in hers,” Crystal said. “I’ll never be able to trust another man.”
When it came time for her to tell the judge what sort of punishment she believed her husband warranted, Crystal remembered taking her daughter to the hospital for a rape exam. The results were scientific, irrefutable, inexcusable.
“It made it easier to turn my back on him,” she said.