SAUGUS — A former school bus driver who was charged in the rape of a 13-year-old special needs student from Saugus in 1998 pleaded guilty Thursday in Salem Superior Court.
Henry Gonzalez, 44, formerly of Lynn, pleaded guilty to one count of rape of a child, and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. Gonzalez was set to stand trial in 2000, but fled the country.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Maureen Wilson Leal told the court that on Dec. 16, 1998, Saugus police received a report that the student had been sexually assaulted by her bus driver. Gonzalez had taken the victim to his mother’s house in Lynn, where he committed the rape and indecent assault, she said.
Gonzalez then drove the student to the Square One Mall in Saugus and left her there. She managed to walk four miles to her school in Melrose, where she immediately reported the rape to a teacher. DNA found during forensic testing matched that of Gonzalez.
“Even after the passage of all these years, law enforcement did not stop in its effort to seek justice for the victim and hold the defendant accountable for his crimes,” said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett in a statement.
Judge James Lang sentenced Gonzalez to 15-17 years in state prison, to be followed by five years of probation. He was ordered to stay away from and have no contact with the victim. Upon his release, Gonzalez must register as a sex offender, receive sex offender treatment, and will be fitted with a GPS.
Gonzalez was scheduled to stand trial in June 2000, but fled to the Dominican Republic. He was at large until last year, when he was captured through the combined efforts of Blodgett’s office, Massachusetts State Police, Saugus Police, and the United States Marshals Service.
Gonzalez was represented by Attorney Mark Schmidt.