Posted Mar 16, 2017 at 2:51 PM
Updated Mar 16, 2017 at 6:27 PM
By Alex Knisely

NEW PHILADELPHIA The man convicted Wednesday of raping his girlfriend's 12-year-old sister could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Miguel Solis-Garcia, 26, was sentenced Thursday to a life sentence for the June 18 incident that occurred in New Philadelphia. The sentence was handed down by Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos.

Garcia was found guilty of one count of rape, a first-degree felony, following a trial that lasted less than two days. The jury took about 90 minutes Wednesday to reach its verdict.

Garcia will be eligible to apply for parole after he has served at least 10 full years. If he is released from prison, there's a chance he could be deported because he is in this country illegally.

Tuscarawas County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Ernest said since Garcia's arrest, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed an immigration detainer on him. According to ICE, an immigration detainer is a notice that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security intends to assume custody of an individual placed on a detainer after he or she is released from jail or prison.

"Generally, if you an illegal alien and convicted of any felony alone, you would be deported," Ernest said. "But that is in the hands of (ICE)."

During the sentencing hearing Thursday, the girl, now 13, was present along with with family members, who gave statements to Thomakos asking for the most severe punishment. The girl and her mother testified during the trial about the incident and cooperation with law enforcement.

Ernest said he appreciates the decision reached by the jury, and that the girl's testimony is "another example of a brave juvenile in Tuscarawas County who has unfortunately had to come forward and testify."

Events in the case

The rape occurred during the hourly hours of June 18. The girl, who testified during the trial, said she was spending the night at a relative's home near Discount Drug Mart on Second Street NW, along with other family members. The girl was sleeping in the downstairs of the home when a drunken Garcia woke her up so she could walk with him to a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes.

When Garcia and the girl returned home, they went inside a neighbor's garage, where Garcia had laid a blanket on the floor. The girl said Garcia then instructed her to lie on the blanket. That's when the rape occurred, the girl testified.

Several hours later, the girl told her mother about the incident. The mother contacted the New Philadelphia Police Department and took her daughter to Akron Children's Hospital for a rape kit to be compiled.

Garcia fled the area to Pocahontas, Ark., where he was believed to be working in the area's chicken industry, according to New Philadelphia Police Detective Capt. Shawn Nelson. Nelson shared the information he had on Garcia with police in Pocahontas, who found and arrested Garcia.

Garcia was extradited back to New Philadelphia the night of Sept. 1. He has been housed in the Tuscarawas County Jail on a $500,000 bond since his return to Ohio.