Man wanted for raping South Dakota child found living in shack south of Plum Grove

Liberty County Sheriff's Deputy Zack Harkness worked with the U.S. Marshal's Office Gulf Coast Task Force to apprehend a suspect wanted for sexually assaulting a child in Watertown, S.D. Harkness (left) is seen looking into the makeshift shack where the suspect was living on a wooded lot south of Plum Grove.

CORRECTION: Originally, this story listed the age of the victim as 13. However, Watertown Police Department sources in South Dakota say the alleged victim is 5.

A fugitive wanted for the forcible rape and aggravated assault of a 5-year-old child in Watertown, S.D., was captured Thursday in a multi-agency effort led by the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

The fugitive, Roberto Alvarez, 35, was found living in a shack on a wooded lot in the Camino Real Subdivision south of Plum Grove in Liberty County. Currently he is in the Montgomery County Jail.

Alvarez will be returned to South Dakota to face charges of Aggravated Assault, a Class 3 felony, and Rape in the first-degree, a Class C felony in the state of South Dakota. The Class 3 felony carries a sentence of up to 15 years and fine of up to $30,000. The Class C felony carries a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000.

Roberto Alvarez

The alleged crimes were reported to Watertown Police Department in South Dakota on Jan. 14, 2020. According to a report from Watertown PD, police were sent to a residence for a child welfare check. When they arrived, the children were located, and the male caregiver, Roberto Alvarez, had fled the scene prior to their arrival.

“Through the investigation, it was discovered that Alvarez had sexually assaulted a 5-year-old. An arrest warrant for Alvarez was secured. The WPD investigation discovered that Alvarez had fled Watertown,” the report states.

Alvarez was found to have ties to Fargo, N.D., and Texas. Information received was that Alvarez was armed, had traveled to Fargo and was planning to travel across the southern border of the United States to flee into Mexico.

The investigation led to the property in Liberty County that is alleged to belong to a relative of Alvarez.

“He was living in a wooden shed with no running water and no power. They were rough conditions. The shack was made of particle board with a door and tarp for a roof,” said Liberty County Sheriff’s Deputy Zack Harkness, who also assists the U.S. Marshal’s Gulf Coast Task Force in apprehending fugitives of justice.

“We think the property where he was living belonged to a relative,” Harkness said. “The U.S. Marshal’s Office did 100 percent of the investigation work and the other agencies were called to assist in locating and capturing the suspect.”

Harkness said that as he and the marshals approached the structure where Alvarez was living, the suspect appeared.

“He popped his head out of the door and saw us about the time we were making our approach. We shouted verbal commands to him to surrender and he was arrested without incident,” said Harkness.

Assisting the U.S. Marshal’s Office Gulf Coast Task Force and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office were Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Splendora Police Department. Officers with Splendora PD flew an unmanned drone helicopter to help scan the perimeter and document the arrest.

“We, at the Watertown Police Department, cannot thank these agencies enough for the tireless hours they put in to bring this dangerous fugitive into custody,” the WPD statement continues.

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