Younger daughter of Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula describes 'squeezing' punishment on the stand

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The investigation into Dr. Joaquin Arambula started when his oldest daughter had a bruise on her face at school.

Her comments to an interviewer who specializes in child abuse cases stood out and we reported it Monday.

It also caught the attention of a CPS worker who talked to the girl a day before at school and listened to the interview remotely.

She asked Fresno police detective Kenneth Dodd to interrupt and give the interviewer a message.

"The victim had been coached," Dodd said. "Her story had changed and what we were hearing, that story was not what they heard the day prior."

The interviewer went back into the room and mentioned the CPS worker to the 7-year-old, who was quick to explain the discrepancy without even being asked.

"What I said was a little bit different than this because I was scared of what might happen and I didn't know what would happen," she said.

She said her original story -- the one where her dad slapped her on the face -- might've been scrambled because she was scared when she told it.

But she told it to six different people the day of the incident, including her mom.

The interviewer asked how her mom responded.

"She started talking about the truth and stuff like that and I told her that I was telling the truth," the girl said. "I wasn't making this up, that he actually hurt me and I had the bruise to prove it."

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In court Tuesday, the interviewer mentioned the CPS worker to the 7-year-old, who was quick to explain the discrepancy without even being asked.

An office manager called CPS, who called the police, and Arambula ended up in court five months later.

But the case against him includes two of his daughters describing how he punishes them.

The 7-year-old alleged victim told an interviewer who specializes in child abuse cases her dad slapped her and left the bruise this time, but he's also kicked her, punched her sister, and squeezed them both so hard they can't breathe.

"I did something bad, but even if I did something bad, would he want to kill me for doing something bad?" the alleged victim said.

The prosecutor also asked her 6-year-old sister about it on Tuesday.

Prosecutor: Has anybody ever squeezed you?
6-year-old: Yeah.
Prosecutor: Who has squeezed you?
6-year-old: Um, my mom does sometimes.

But on further review, she talked about her dad using squeezes as punishment.

Prosecutor: Has anybody else squeezed you?
6-year-old: Sometimes my dad does.
Prosecutor: You said sometimes your dad does. Can you tell us when he does that?
6-year-old: Only when like we're in trouble, like, in big trouble.

She said he's done it to her twice and it hurts her stomach. She said she's also seen him do it to both of her sisters.

Both girls ended their court appearances by hugging their father as soon as they got off the witness stand.

And even after describing all the forms of punishment her father has used on her, the 7-year-old talked about her father like a superhero.

Interviewer: What about your dad makes you feel safe?
Alleged victim: He protects me whenever something scares me.

Defense attorneys say the girl has a vivid imagination and the case against him is politically motivated.

The trial is expected to last into next week.
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