A swim instructor in Apple Valley, California has been arrested after a missing 16-year old girl was found hiding in his bedroom, officials said.
The teen has been missing since July 22, 2020. Authorities discovered that she had been communicating with her former swim coach John Casillas, and on August 6th, detectives served a search warrant at his home in San Bernardino.
While police did not identify the teen, her father, Ismael Meza, has identified her as Lexis Meza to local media.
There, she was found hiding in his bedroom at the house where John Casillas’ 62-year old father Alfonso Casillas also lived.
“At the same time, detectives contacted and detained John at a local country club where he taught swim lessons. John and Alfonso were transported to Sheriff’s Headquarters for further investigation,” a release from Apple Valley police said. “Apple Valley and Crimes Against Children Detectives determined that John was aware of the victim’s age and the ongoing search for her. Additionally, Alfonso knew the victim was a juvenile and did not alert law enforcement.”
John Casillas was arrested and booked at West Valley Detention Center on charges of Concealment of a Child from Legal Guardian/Parent. Bail was set at $50,000. He posted bail the day after his arrest and was released from custody. In California, child abduction can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If tried as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to four years in prison.
The Sheriff’s Department says that an investigation would also be submitted regarding criminal charges against John’s father Alfonso Casillas, who they say “knew the victim was a juvenile and did not alert law enforcement.”
Casillas was the coach of the teen found in his bedroom for “a little bit over a year” at the Desert Aquatics swim club, according to her father. The Sheriff’s Department says that he is employed as a swim instructor at “several different swimming academies,” but did not name those places.
Meza is still a member of Desert Aquatics, which is a USA Swimming club. Casillas has not yet been added to the sanctions database by the US Center for Safe Sport.
As recently as October 29, 2019, a now-deleted post on the Desert Aquatics Facebook page identified Casillas as the club’s head coach.