A former girlfriend of a man charged in a human trafficking case said the defendant once choked her so hard the blood vessels in one of her eyes burst.
“I was scared that maybe he wasn’t going to stop choking me,” the woman, now 29, told a jury Tuesday. “The sound of me trying to breathe was scary. It sounded like a death rattle.”
Oscar Higueros Jr., 40, of Cayucos, has pleaded not guilty to 35 charges, including forcible rape.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, after responding to an ad on Craigslist, Higueros paid $150 to have sex with a Los Osos teen who was being pimped out by a San Francisco man. A day after having sex with Higueros, the teen moved in with him after an argument with her mother.
Richard Scott Brooks, 40, has already been convicted of pimping the teen, and was sentenced to 61 years and eight months to life in prison. Now Higueros is on trial in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Before the Los Osos teen took the stand, several women who had prior relationships with Higueros testified for the prosecution.
Last week, a former girlfriend testified that Higueros raped her when she told him she had another boyfriend. Even after reporting that to police, she told a jury, she later resumed having sexual relations with Higueros.
“His charm and overwhelming nature got the best of me,” she said.
Another former girlfriend said Higueros once tied a dog leash around her neck when she was intoxicated. She woke up bruised and in pain, she said. Two days later, she testified, he texted her a photo of herself from that night, naked and handcuffed, accompanied by the words, “Purrrr” and “good kitty.”
“I had no recollection of that whatsoever,” she said.
The woman who said her blood vessels burst met Higueros through the dating site Match.com in 2012, after a divorce.
Initially, she said, he was kind and charismatic, and she was impressed that he was a firefighter. At the time of his arrest, Higueros was a volunteer fire captain in Cayucos.
But soon, the woman said, he began molding her into his sex slave.
“He was the master, and I was his pet,” said the woman, identified only as “K.”
K testified that she had to clean the dishes a certain way — with scalding water — or there would be consequences. Punishments for poor housework or sex eventually began to worsen, she said.
“Sometimes that would involve tying me up,” she said. “The worst for me was the belt.”
Once, she said, he forced her to crawl around the house naked with a belt around her neck.
“I thought I deserved it,” she said.
At some point, she testified, she began dating a police officer from Santa Barbara. When Higueros found a video on K’s phone of her and the police officer having sex, he choked her, K testified.
“I was gasping for air and I was really scared,” she said.
Despite that incident, K eventually went back to Higueros.
“When things were good with him, it was almost perfect,” she said. “And I thought that I had deeply hurt him.”
As K testified, a male support person sat in between her and Higueros. At one point, the trial was stopped when the support person turned and glared at Higueros.
“It was also highly addictive,” K added about her relationship with Higueros. “It was almost this game of how good I could be and how nice could I get him to be.”
In July 2014, the victim in the trafficking case, referred to as Jane Doe in court, met Higueros through Brooks. She, too, said Higueros made her wash dishes with very hot water and do other chores, she testified Tuesday. When she told Higueros she was only 17, she said, he discussed legally adopting her so he could have her do whatever he wanted.
“He wanted me to sign a master-slave document,” Jane Doe testified.
Like K, she told the jury, Higueros wanted to be called “daddy” while he referred to her as “kitty.” If she didn’t act as he wanted, Jane Doe testified, he would call her “bad kitty.”
“Everything had a consequence if I didn’t do it the right way,” she said.
Once, after she brought a male friend to the house, Higueros “hate raped” her, she said, then broke her wrist and strangled her.
Her testimony resumes Wednesday.