The trial of an elderly Aurora man charged with sexually assaulting a child began Monday in Kane County without the defendant, who authorities presume has fled the country.
Enrique Huerta-Ruiz, 85, was last seen Nov. 22, when he told family members he was going for a walk in the Oakhurst Forest Preserve. Authorities conducted an extensive search of the preserve on Aurora’s east side in the days following Ruiz’s disappearance.
“We can’t say for certain, but we believe he’s in Mexico. He’s definitely not up here,” Lt. Pat Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff’s police said Monday.
That trial in absentia got under way Monday afternoon, according to prosecutors. It is expected to go to the jury either Wednesday or Thursday.
Authorities think Ruiz, who was free on bond, fled to avoid prosecution on two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse. According to court records, Ruiz allegedly assaulted a child younger than 13 over a six-year period beginning in 2004.
Ruiz was charged in 2011, and was about two weeks away from the scheduled start of his trial when he went missing.
His family reported Ruiz missing on Nov. 24, about 48 hours after he was last seen. His disappearance prompted a large-scale police response, Gengler said.
Police assembled a 60-person team that day and combed the forest preserve, Gengler said.
The following day, cadaver dogs searched the same area and police conducted an aerial search, he said.
Authorities had previously reported that Ruiz owns property in Mexico.