Former MorningStar volunteer accused of groping woman

Richard Steven Robles

Police on Thursday arrested a former volunteer at a Santa Fe senior living facility accused of groping an elderly female resident with dementia.

Richard Steven Robles, of Santa Fe, remained in custody on a $2,500 bond at Santa Fe County jail Friday on charges of felony assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, three misdemeanor counts of battery and a misdemeanor count of abuse of a care facility resident.

Lorna Lee, vice president of marketing and philanthropy for the Denver-based MorningStar Senior Living, said in a phone interview Friday that the company was made aware last week of the incident involving Robles.

“We have no more association with him,” Lee said.

Police were notified about the incident Sept. 4, when the 77-year-old woman’s daughter brought two video recordings to staff at the MorningStar facility at 2041 South Pacheco St., according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by Santa Fe police and prosecutors.

The daughter had installed the cameras in her mother’s room after “an earlier incident at the facility concerning staff and her mother,” a police report said. The report did not detail what that incident was.

The daughter declined to comment for this story.

The first video showed Robles, 68, walking with the patient into her room, and after the door was closed, grabbing her hand and pulling it toward his groin, the affidavit said.

Robles then grabbed her breast, after which she immediately turned away, and then he pressed his body to hers, according to the affidavit.

The video then showed the patient take several steps away from Robles. He followed her further into the room, again getting close to her, saying he wanted her to touch him.

The affidavit said the second video, recorded at the same time, documented further groping of the woman’s breast and buttocks by Robles, as well as several sexually suggestive remarks he made to the woman.

Police said no employees witnessed the incident and only learned about it from the resident’s daughter.

Police interviewed the daughter, who told them she had moved her mother into the facility in March and that her mother would have had immediate contact with Robles because he volunteered there and helped with auxiliary fitness classes.

The daughter told police Robles “has always been a little touchy but she never thought anything of it,” the affidavit said. In July, the daughter decided to hire Robles for half-hour sessions twice a week, thinking it would be nice for her mother to have one-on-one interactions and talk with someone. She agreed with Robles that it would be permissible for him to enter her mother’s room.

The daughter told police her mother’s condition has gotten progressively worse and she described it currently as moderate dementia. She said her mother would not be able to recall the incident with Robles if police interviewed her about it.

Staff at MorningStar told police Robles had been volunteering at the facility since it opened and helped out at at least two other facilities, the affidavit said.

Lee said Robles occasionally led musical movement and exercise programs for groups of residents.

“And we have no complaints of his service in that regard,” Lee said, adding there have been no other reports or complaints of similar behavior by Robles at MorningStar as alleged in this case. She said Robles had been “contracted privately by the family of the resident,” which they are entitled to do.

Lee said the Santa Fe MorningStar community, which opened in January, has 59 rooms dedicated to assisted living and 29 for memory-impaired residents. She said she had no knowledge of other facilities at which Robles may have volunteered.

Lee said in a followup email Friday that her office was unaware of any earlier incident with staff that may have prompted the family to install cameras in the mother’s room. She did not respond to a question about whether volunteers, including Robles, receive a background check. Court records do not show any prior criminal charges against Robles in New Mexico.

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