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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Man charged denies touching girls inappropriately during practice


Last updated 1/30/2022 at 7:56pm | View PDF

The ex-city employee charged with annoy/child molestation told police he remembered practicing wrestling maneuvers with the girls, but didn’t touch them inappropriately, according to court documents.

Matthew Maldonado, the former Shafter code enforcement officer, had also been under investigation in 2017 by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. He formerly worked in Wasco. According to court documents on that investigation, there were reports of Maldonado allegedly inappropriately touching a minor. No charges were filed against him in connection with the investigation.

He was charged in January with five counts of annoy/child molestation and is due to appear in court on Feb. 9.

According to police, Shafter High Girls Wrestling Coach Eli Espericueta provided police with videotapes of wrestling practice sessions that took place in his garage involving Maldonado and three girls, ages 12, 14 and 17.

Espericueta showed investigators clips from inside the garage where the practices were on a mat. He explained to police that the cameras cover all points of entry to his home.

The clips, which showed Maldonado and one of the alleged victims wrestling on April 6, 2021, captured Maldonado’s hands in “concerning locations,” according to Espericueta, who told police that he has taught children wrestling for 13 years and there is no reason for hands to be placed in the groin area.

Espericueta told police Maldonado had previously been a certified coach with him for the kids program and was currently involved with the Shafter High track team. He said that Maldonado would drop by his home once in a while to help out with the youth practices.

Maldonado told police he had been an assistant coach with the Shafter High Wrestling team for several years, but Kern High School District officials said Maldonado had never been on their coaching staff.

Shafter City Manager Gabriel Gonzales confirmed that Maldonado had resigned his position as Code Enforcement Officer for the city late last year.


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