A Bradenton man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being convicted of molesting and abusing his live-in girlfriend’s three daughters.
Edbin Heli Coz was convicted Wednesday evening of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12 and aggravated child abuse.
Immediately after the verdict, the judge sentenced Coz to life in prison.
“It is always very difficult for children to testify in court and go through the judicial process, but these children were brave despite the challenges, and we are fortunate that this defendant will never have access to children again,” Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Evers said in a news release from the State Attorney’s Office.
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Coz, who turned 29 Wednesday, was first arrested in May 2015 and remained in custody at the Manatee County jail as the case made its way to trial.
The allegations came to light when one victim told a friend and a teacher at school. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and deputies and child protective investigators responded to the school, according to court records. The then-12-year-old girl also disclosed how Coz hit her in the head with a cutting board once and Coz and her mother had her lie about what happened when they took her to the hospital.
The girl and her two sisters, who attend the same school, were all interviewed and taken to the Child Protective Investigations Division office. Their mother was called and asked to come to CPID.
During an interview with the mother, she reportedly told investigators she had no idea the sexual abuse had been happening. She did, however, admit she had lied about how her daughter was injured.
Coz had been beating the mother when her daughter jumped on Coz’s back in an attempt to defend her, the mother told investigators. Coz split the girls’s head open with a cutting board, cracking her skull and causing bleeding on the brain.
As a result of the trauma of the injury and memory loss she suffered as a result, the girl now has a permanent disability, according to reports.
During a controlled call between Coz and the mother, Coz admitted to hitting the girl with the cutting board but denied the sexual allegations. He had no reasonable explanation why the girl would make the accusations and later refused to take a lie detector test after initially agreeing.
The investigation also revealed children had seen domestic violence numerous times. All three children were removed from the home.
When placed in foster care, the children began counseling and the sisters disclosed Coz had molested them when they were 8 and 9 years old, respectively.
Last month, the children’s mother was charged with failing to report child abuse.