BEAUFORT, S.C. (September 6, 2022) – A Seabrook man has been sent to prison for the sexual assault of a young girl who lived near him.
Oscar Manuel Paez, 27, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The charges stemmed from incidents reported in March 2020 that took place over the preceding two years.
Paez, who was scheduled to stand trial later in the day, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He will have to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
“Mr. Paez is going to prison because his victim refused to remain a victim,” said Julie Kate Keeney of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “Although he abused her repeatedly over a period of years, this young girl mustered the courage to report his behavior to her family because she wanted the assaults to stop. Now, thankfully, they have.”
After reporting the abuse, the girl was taken to the 14th Circuit Victims Services Center for a forensic interview and forensic examination. DNA collected from a semen stain on the girl’s pants matched Paez’s.
When officers with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Paez, he first denied any contact with the girl. However, Paez later said he might have been sleepwalking when the abuse occurred. He admitted to smoking marijuana and watching pornography before going to bed on the night of one of the incidents. After giving law enforcement conflicting explanations of what happened, Paez eventually admitted to molesting the victim for over a year.
Investigators examined Paez’s phone and found searches for “taboo” sexual relationships on an internet pornography site. Also, while awaiting trial in the Beaufort County Detention Center, he apologized to his mother for his actions and said he needed counseling.
Paez’s criminal history includes a 2017 conviction for infliction of injury to a spouse, for which he spent 90 days in jail and served 36 months of probation.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen handed down the sentence.
Keeney is a member of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, which prosecutes sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes against vulnerable people.