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16-year prison term in Santa Rosa child-molest case

  • Molest suspect Dylan Zara in court, September 30, 2011.

Convicted child molester Dylan Zara received his pre-school teaching credential in the mail a week after he was arrested on charges of molesting a 5-year-old girl, the victim's mother said Wednesday in a Santa Rosa court.

At the time, Zara, 28, had been taking child development classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and worked as assistant director at a Sebastopol youth camp, she said.

At the hearing Wednesday when Zara was sentenced to 16 years in prison, the woman asked that he be prohibited from ever talking to children again. She said he caused a "train wreck that hasn't stopped moving yet" in her family.

"It took many years for me to build my happy family," the woman said during Zara's sentencing hearing. "It took less than a second for Dylan to shatter it."

Zara, who admitted molesting the girl over a two-year period, stared at his feet as she spoke. He didn't respond before deputies took him away to begin his formal punishment.

The former computer technician at Twin Hills Middle School was arrested in July.

Rather than going to trial and facing a potential life prison term, he entered a plea bargain with prosecutors, admitting three or more acts of "substantial sexual contact" with the girl beginning in February, 2009. The remaining charges — two counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10, oral copulation and possession of child pornography — were dismissed under the deal.

Zara's lawyer, Jeff Mitchell, said Zara could face federal charges of using the Internet to receive or distribute child pornography. FBI investigators were first tipped to Zara by emails sent from his account.

The emails contained pictures of his victim. The mother said in court one of the hardest things she ever had to do as a parent was identifying the pictures for police.

"She looked ashamed and empty and absent," the mother said, stopping several times to compose herself. "She is not the same."

Mitchell said the recent arrest of six other men on child-pornography charges grew out of the FBI investigation of Zara.

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