This story first appeared in ABQ Free Press. Reprinted with permission.
A former Moriarty High School assistant football coach charged with sex crimes against three female students was accused six years ago of raping a disabled, 16-year-old female student at the same school.
But the case against Damien Hyatt, now 24, was never fully investigated by law enforcement authorities. As a result, the alleged rape never showed up in a criminal background check, and Hyatt was hired by the Moriarty School District as a coach.
Last year, while in that position, Hyatt is alleged to have had sex with three female students. He was charged with 24 criminal offenses and was fired from his school job.
Now, a new detail has emerged in the 2011 accusation.
Hyatt’s mother, Tina Hyatt, was a security guard at the school at the time and was assigned as a type of in-school guardian for the disabled female student who was assaulted. Now, Tina Hyatt is being accused of covering up for her son.
The attorney for Damien Hyatt’s 2011 accuser said the Moriarty Police Department and school district protected the accused rapist instead of fully investigating the allegations against him.
“In 2011, our client came forward with very serious allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Hyatt,” said the woman’s attorney, Laura Schauer Ives. “Unfortunately, the Moriarty Police Department and the Moriarty/Edgewood School District, including Mr. Hyatt’s mother, a security guard at Moriarty High School, chose to protect Mr. Hyatt, not his victim, and refused to conduct a complete investigation into the allegations.
“Had they done so, his other victims may have been spared. She [Tina Hyatt] should not have been involved in any investigation of her own son, and her refusal to do an adequate investigation allowed him to re-offend in the future.”
How it was that Damien Hyatt could pass a background check even though a city police report of the 2011 incident was filed is unknown.
Also unknown is why a rape kit evidence package taken after the 2011 incident sat untested by the Moriarty Police Department until it was recovered in November by the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department.
Almost no one involved in the case is talking.
ABQ Free Press Weekly left phone messages with Torrance County Sheriff Heath White, Moriarty Police Chief Bobby Garcia, Torrance County Assistant District Attorney Shannon Murdock and Tina Hyatt. None returned the calls.
Reached by telephone, Naomi N. Salazar, Hyatt’s lawyer at his Magistrate Court appearance last year, said, “I don’t have anything to say.”
Only Moriarty School Superintendent Tom Sullivan talked.
“There was a background check [on Damien Hyatt], and we followed all of our standard hiring procedures,” said Sullivan, who has been superintendent for three-and-a-half years.
“We have been cooperating with authorities, and we have not been involved in the investigation per se,” he said. Sullivan said Damien Hyatt was fired shortly after he was charged this past October with 24 counts of rape and other sexual abuse counts relating to three teenage girls.
Tina Hyatt remains employed by the school district, Sullivan said.
The 2011 allegation
According to a Nov. 4, 2016, report by Torrance County Deputy Jose Gutierrez, Gutierrez interviewed the alleged victim in the 2011 case after an investigator for her attorney called the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department.
Back in 2011, the girl sometimes needed medication to control seizures, and administering the medications “would require the complete unclothing” of the girl, the police report said. The attorney’s investigator told Gutierrez that “the young female has a disability and was assigned to a security guard as a guardian. The security guard was also Mr. Hyatt’s mother,” the police report said.
The victim told Deputy Gutierrez that she and Hyatt had previously dated and that the relationship was sexual in nature. But the victim eventually ended the relationship, she said.
One day, after the relationship had ended, the girl was on her way to a history class when she saw Damien Hyatt in a school hall.
“Mr. Hyatt wanted her to ditch her class and hang out with him,” according to the police report. She “said she tried to tell Mr. Hyatt no and Mr. Hyatt guided her outside to the gym area … when they got outside, Mr. Hyatt grabbed her up against a wall and raped her … she told Mr. Hyatt that she did not want to have sex with him.”
The victim, according to the report, “said Mr. Hyatt’s hands were on her hands as he was holding her down. When he finished behind her, he stood in front of the door and grabbed her by her hair. [The victim] said Mr. Hyatt pulled her down and made her give him a blow job. [The victim] said every time she would try to stand up, Mr. Hyatt would pull her back down.”
The victim did not immediately report the incident to police but went home, according to the police report. That evening, the victim “said she was texting Tina [Hyatt’s mother] and telling her she was not going to tell anyone,” according to Gutierrez’s report.
Eventually, a few days later, the victim and her mother did make a police report and notified the school of the incident, according to Gutierrez’s report.
The victim also told Gutierrez that “Tina tried to show everyone the text message that [the victim] was not going to tell anyone,” Gutierrez wrote, adding that the victim “said she was interviewed in a really small room [by Moriarty police] where her mother was not allowed to be present.”
Gutierrez’s report said the victim said that Damien Hyatt was suspended for three days after the incident and that the victim, emotionally distressed, dropped out of school “and attended a diploma equivalency course.”
It’s not clear if Damien Hyatt will be charged in connection with the 2011 allegation. In a Nov. 17, follow-up report, Gutierrez said he received a phone call on Nov. 17, 2016, from Seventh Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Shannon Murdock who said the deputy’s Nov. 4, 2016, report about the 2011 allegation matched the police report the victim filed in 2011.
“Ms. Murdock said she has compared my police report and the interview from November 4, 2016 to the original documents. Ms. Murdock said they are extremely comparable and there is little to no deviation,” Gutierrez wrote in his follow-up report.
“Ms. Murdock confirmed the charges we had spoken about in the past and wanted a criminal complaint filed as soon as possible,” he wrote.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press, and can be reached at email@example.com.