A man who allegedly held a juvenile hostage in his grandmother’s home for 68 days and repeatedly sexually assaulted her appeared in Yuma Justice Court Thursday.
During his initial appearance at 1 p.m., 18-year-old Manuel Swayze was told by Justice of the Peace Pro Tem Yolanda Torok he was being held for three felony counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one felony count of kidnapping.
Swayze’s grandmother, Ramona Swayze, who also made an initial appearance in court, was told she was being held on one felony kidnap charge and one felony charge for hindering prosecution.
The Yuma County Attorney’s Office has 48 hours to charge Swayze and his grandmother with the crimes.
Even though she had not been officially charged, Ramona asked to address the court.
“Well I’m pleading not guilty,” she said.
Acting on a tip on Wednesday, officers with the Yuma Police Department found the 15-year-old female at a residence located at 3845 W. 3rd Place in Yuma.
A police report about the girl had been filed on May 14 alleging she had run away.
YPD spokeswoman Leanne Worthen said the parents of the girl, who was 14 at the time she disappeared, called YPD Wednesday with information the female was at the residence.
“That led to the fact that we got over there and got her back,” Worthen said, adding the parents were concerned the entire time she was missing.
Police said they had reasonable suspicion to believe Manuel Swayze kept the girl against her will at that location and was having sexual contact with her.
Both Swayzes were arrested at the residence. Considering the age and the nature of the alleged crimes, the Yuma Sun will not identify the victim.
Ramona Swayze was allegedly aware of the female being held and assisted in keeping the child against her will, police said.
The victim’s mother was also in court and asked the judge not to let either defendant out of jail saying her daughter had been held against her will and beaten. She also alleged that Manuel Swayze had told her daughter he would kill her and her entire family.
Deputy County Attorney John Ballos reviewed the cases against Swayze and his grandmother, and addressed the court about the conditions of their release.
“Apparently this defendant held the victim against her will in a residence located here in Yuma County,” he said about Manuel Swayze. “This defendant used a knife to (hold) this victim against her will and repeatedly sexually assaulted her to the point where she tries to escape only to be drawn right back in to that residence right here in Yuma.
“Your Honor this is a serious offense. Based on the serious allegations of this offense — based on the victim’s (mother’s) statement that she gave to this court earlier — the state is going to ask for a bond of $700,000.”
Torok considered the bond amount but decided to set it at $515,000, which led Ballos to voice an additional concern.
“In the state's opinion, this warrants a cash only bond,” he said. “It seems as if the defendant has a history of not complying with court orders, so in order to secure the defendant’s appearance (in court) the state would request a cash bond.
“Should the defendant actually post that cash bond, that should give him enough incentive to come back to face the gravity and the serious nature of these charges. The state deems that this defendant is a flight risk. These are prison mandatory offenses. The charges give him every incentive to flee the state of Arizona.”
In response Torok set the bond as cash only.
After Maunel was taken back to his cell in the Yuma County Jail, it was Ramona’s turn to face Ballos.
“It seems like this defendant’s role in this, to a certain extent, is just as egregious,” Ballos said.
“This defendant actually knew that her (grandson) kept the victim hostage inside of the residence (according to police), when the victim tried to escape, this defendant knew that she was being drug back into the house and started laughing about it.
“We are looking at someone that knew what was going on — that didn’t report it to the police and that knew the pain and the trauma that this victim suffered inside the residence and yet failed to act and even covered up the incident.”
In response, Torok set Ramona’s bail at $75,000 and made it cash only as well.
The two defendants will next appear in court at 1 p.m. on July 19.
YPD asks anyone with information in this case to call 783-4421, or 78-Crime to remain anonymous.