An Antioch man has been convicted of raping a Spring Hill woman in 2019 following a three day trial last week in a Williamson County Court.
The jury returned a unanimous ruling after nearly four hours of deliberation, convicting 33-year-old Santiago Garcia Cornejo of one count of rape and three counts of sexual battery following the 2019 assault. It was one that saw Cornejo, who was working as a subcontractor doing a repair job at the victim’s home, force her into an unwanted sexual contact.
As previously reported, police said that Cornejo left the woman’s home on July 27, 2019 to “get more materials,” and later returned smelling of and in possession of alcohol before he forced himself on the woman, according to an affidavit.
The Home Page is not identifying the victim, who was 77 at the time of the attack. While we were not present in the courtroom for the trial, Assistant District Attorney Tammy Rettig said in a phone call that the woman took the stand as a witness, detailing the assault to the jury.
"It was extremely brave for her to get up in front of these strangers and talk about something that had happened to her body and something that an everyday person would be embarrassed to say," Rettig said. "She did it in front of strangers and I know that part of what was driving her to do that is that she wanted other women to know that it was okay if something happened to them, that they needed to be able to say something about it."
Cornejo was a resident of Antioch at the time of the assault. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, but it’s unclear how long he has lived in the United States or what his residency or citizenship status is currently.
Cornejo did speak English in his 2019 interview with a Spring Hill Police Detective. He did require the use of a translator in court throughout his trial, although Cornejo did not testify in his own defense.
That detective also testified as part of the trial as well as a medical professional who examined the victim and a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation official who handled forensic evidence.
The defense also called a medical professional and Cornejo’s boss, who actually contracted the home repairs, as witnesses.
Cornejo will be sentenced on April 25 and is facing at least eight years in prison, but his exact sentence will be determined by Judge James G. Martin.
Rettig has served in her role for 17 years and said that this is the first case involving this type of sexual crime that's victimized a senior citizen that she's handled. SHe she encouraged anyone, especially members of vulnerable populations, to report to law enforcement if they have or believe that they have been the victim of any type of crime.
"I don't want them to think that they're being a bother, you know, sometimes elderly people will say things like, 'I don't want to bother other people,' but there are good law enforcement officers across this county who would be delighted to help them with anything or just to check in on them and make sure that they're okay," Rettig said.
As the largest generation ages into their senior years, crimes targeting seniors, usually financial crimes, have increased nationwide. Rettig said that the state is working to make sure that those crimes are identified and prosecuted.
"Something that [the district attorney's office has] been working on for a few years is making sure in our community have a voice," Rettig said. "Here the lady that was a victim is an elderly person, and we wanted to make sure that she had a voice."
At the time of publishing, Cornejo’s attorney did not return a request for comment.