Partners boys claim abuse by volunteer

A 50-year-old Grand Junction man who had been a Mesa County Partners volunteer to four juveniles since 2009 was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of molesting two of the boys.

Mark Anthony Bustamante is facing two felony counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust as part of a pattern of abuse. The boys, 9 and 10, accused Bustamante of molesting them while they stayed at his home between March 1, 2010, and May 23, 2012, according to the arrest affidavit.

Bustamante, who is married and has children, denied the allegations and did not want to talk with investigators without an attorney present during an interview on Thursday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Investigators first learned of the allegations after the 10-year-old was interviewed at the Western Slope Center for Children on June 27. The boy told an investigator that Bustamante would touch his genitals every time he showered while staying at Bustamante’s home, which he did once or twice a week since meeting him in October 2011. The boy said he showered every time he was at the home before going to bed.

The boy told the investigator he felt uncomfortable about Bustamante touching him and he was confused about why he did it, the affidavit said.

The boy also told the investigator that Bustamante tried to touch him while the two were in his car and that he also molested him on a bed.

Investigators contacted three other boys who had been mentored by Bustamante and asked if they, too, had been molested. One boy, a 9-year-old, reported that he had been sexually abused. The boy told the investigator during an interview Friday at the Western Slope Center for Children that he was there “because Mark did something really bad,” the affidavit said.

The boy said he also stayed at Bustamante’s home and was awakened one night when Bustamante was on top of him. The boy said he tried to move away but Bustamante got on top of him again, rubbing against him with his clothes on. The boy told the investigator he thought he was in the second grade when the incident occurred. The boy also said he was taking a shower when Bustamante came into the bathroom and started washing him, including his private parts, but Bustamante stopped a second time when the boy insisted more forcefully that he could wash himself.

Police contacted Bustamante on Thursday at his home and informed him of the allegations and asked him to come to the Sheriff’s Department for an interview, which he did.

Bustamante told police that he intentionally chose boys through the Partner program who were about the age of his son so that they could have a friend in addition to a mentor. He said he, his wife and his children participate in family activities with boys he mentors, including bowling, swimming and going to the movies for about three hours a week.

Bustamante told police he has partnered three boys, but Partners records indicate Bustamante has acted as a partner to four boys.

Bustamante denied allegations that he touched any of the boys’ private parts or that the boys were on his bed. He agreed one of the boys was a good kid and not one to lie, according to the affidavit.

Partners is a nonprofit organization that pairs adults in mentoring roles with troubled or at-risk youth.

Attempts to reach Partners Executive Director Joe Higgins for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.


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