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Woman Accused Of Prostituting 13-Year-Old For Food Appears In Court

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A woman accused of prostituting a 13-year-old to a Hartford bodega owner was arraigned in Superior Court Friday.

Judge Joan Alexander boosted the bail of Wilnelia David, 29, of Hartford to $350,000 from $125,000. David’s next court date was scheduled for May 23.

David, who was wearing a teal Aeropostle sweatshirt, said nothing during her brief appearance. A public defender was appointed.

She has no criminal record, her public defender said.

Police arrested David on Thursday afternoon, charging her with leaving a child unsupervised, risk of injury to a minor, prostitution, fourth-degree sexual assault, first-degree sexual assault and sexual assault of a victim under 13.

The bodega owner, Ruffino Fernandez, 55, was arrested Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor, second-degree unlawful restraint, illegal sexual contact, fourth-degree sexual assault and conspiracy to commit fourth-degree sexual assault.

An arrest warrant for Fernandez says David frequented the Keithbel Market, at 556 Zion St., which is owned by Fernandez and his ex-wife. The victim told police that every time David went to the store, she invited the girl, and that Fernandez gave the woman $50 after each sexual assault.

The girl said that Fernandez groped and fondled her underneath her clothing, according to police. She appeared shy, and replied to some of the interviewer’s questions in writing, rather than saying out loud how Fernandez had assaulted her, police said in the warrant.

The victim said that both Fernandez and David threatened her by saying that if she told anyone about the assaults, they would tell others that she was nasty and a snitch, the warrant says.

The girl’s father contacted police on Dec. 31, 2012, after being told by a friend that he had seen a video on David’s cellphone of Fernandez touching his daughter inappropriately, police said.

Investigators obtained warrants for Fernandez’s residence, which is on the second floor above the bodega, and for David’s person to seize her cellphone. Guns and drugs were recovered in Fernandez’s home during their investigation, police said. He has drug and gun charges pending in addition to the sexual assault case.

In an interview with police after the search, Fernandez said that he had sex with David and other women in the basement of the store. He told police that he gave David $50 afterward.

David gave a written statement to police in February in which she said that the victim was often with her and that she would sometimes go to Fernandez’s store with the girl. But she said she usually went to the store alone to have sex with Fernandez — who would give her free things for her baby, as well as drinks, cigarettes or money, the warrant says.

David showed officers the video on her cellphone, which she said was of an incident in early December 2012, and was the only time she witnessed any kind of assault on the teen, police said.

In the storage basement of a bodega on Zion Street, away from the main floor’s surveillance cameras, owner Ruffino Fernandez had sex with several women.

But in that same basement, according to police, Fernandez sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl brought to the store by one of his female companions — whom he then paid with cash and groceries.

The victim told police that she was sexually assaulted four or five times in the fall and winter of 2012, the first time when she was 12 years old, police wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Fernandez, 55, told police that he never took anyone underage to the basement, the warrant says.

He was arrested Wednesday and charged with

The woman police say he paid to bring the girl to the store is 29-year-old Wilnelia “Wendy” David, a friend of the girl’s family, police said.

By Christine Dempsey, Hartford Courant

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