Marfa man charged with crimes against children makes initial court appearance

MARFA – The Marfa man accused of sexually abusing three young persons over a period of years made his initial appearance before 394th State Judicial District Judge Roy Ferguson holding court here Tuesday.

Arrested and charged in September, 50-year-old Carl Robert Poenisch Jr. has been indicted by a Presidio County Grand Jury on three counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The charges are first-degree felonies, and if convicted, the sentence on each count is not less than 25 years to life in prison.

Under guard, handcuffed and shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, the former Texas Forest Service area wildfire taskforce leader shuffled in front of the judge and said he doesn’t have an attorney and can’t afford one. Poenisch was terminated from his job by the forest service at the time of his arrest.

The judge appointed state public defender James McDermott, who a short time later entered not guilty pleas for his client for the purpose of arraignment.

The judge kept in place bonds totaling $750,000 ($250,000 on each count) set by grand jurors and assessed by Presidio County Justice of the Peace David Bebee. Poenisch is being held in the Hudspeth County detention facility in Sierra Blanca where he’s been since his arrest.

Sandy Wilson, the 83rd Judicial District Attorney, speaking after court session, said that because Poenisch had confessed to his crimes when he was interviewed by Texas Ranger Jeffrey Vajdos, a plea bargain isn’t off the table. She said she might consider three 25-year prison terms to be served consecutively if Poenisch pleads guilty to all three counts.

“That’s a long time,” the DA said of a 75-year sentence.

The three victims who were children at the time of the abuse are now adults and would have to testify should the case go to trial, Wilson noted as a reason to plea bargain with Poenisch. The case came to light when Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez was contacted by the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office in California, according to the criminal complaint. In May, California authorities interviewed the now 27-year-old victim, who stated he had been sexually abused by Poenisch for several years and that others may have been abused by Poenisch as well.

Dominguez called Texas Ranger Jeffrey J. Vajdos, and a joint investigation began.

The Ranger interviewed the young person, “victim#1,” on September 5th, who confirmed the California sheriff’s information, and provided the name and telephone number of another alleged victim, according to the complaint.

“Victim #2” was interviewed by Vajdos on September 7th , and the victim also reported being sexually abused by Poenisch, the complaint states.

On September 10, Poenisch was interviewed by Vajdos at the DPS office in Alpine, where Poenisch “initially denied any allegation of sexual assault or sexual contact with a child,” according to the complaint. “During the continued interview and interrogation, Carl Robert Poenisch Jr. confessed to having sexual contact . . . with Victim #1 and Victim #2.”

In the meantime, a third victim came forward, and in an amended complaint, Vajdos reports that Poenisch also admitted to harming victim #3.

Ferguson ordered Poenisch back to court in March 2019 for a pre-trial hearing.