A paramedic, who drew widespread sympathy last year when he almost showed up for duty at the car wreck that killed his wife, surrendered to authorities Wednesday on suspicion of conducting a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female relative.
Jake Schonert, a 35-year-old Los Angeles County firefighter, posted a $200,000 bond hours after surrendering at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Bailey said.
Schonert is due in Newhall Municipal Court July 22 for arraignment.
Prosecutors Tuesday filed six felony child-molestation charges against Schonert after the relative last week told a church counselor of her relationship, said Sgt. Kevin Carney of the sheriff’s child-abuse detail.
“This is one of those stories that just tugs at the heart, and for it to be capped like this is so terrible,” Carney said.
Carney said the girl did not feel “secure” in the relationship.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Noyes said the acts alleged began in January and continued through the end of April. “Force is not alleged,” he said.
If convicted of all charges, Schonert faces a maximum six years and four months in prison, Noyes said.
Schonert learned about the charges from news reports Wednesday morning, said his attorney, Terrence Roden.
Roden added that he had still not seen the criminal complaint and could not comment on the details. He said Schonert will “absolutely” plead not guilty.
Schonert’s wife, Patricia, 35, was killed in a crash Oct. 17 when a pickup driven by Tyrone Michael Stewart swerved across San Fernando Road north of Circle J Ranch Road and struck her car.
Her car was then struck by another vehicle; she was pinned in the wreckage.
At nearby Fire Station 124, Jake Schonert and other firefighters boarded an ambulance and headed to the crash site. But rescue personnel on the scene recognized the woman as Schonert’s wife, and a fire captain rerouted Jake Schonert’s ambulance at the last moment.
Schonert and the others in his team, realizing that the most likely cause of such an unusual change in orders was that the crash involved someone close to one of them, immediately began checking on the whereabouts and safety of their families.
Stewart, 28, who was critically injured in the crash but has since recovered, had twice been convicted of drunk driving. He pleaded no contest to charges of drunk driving and manslaughter and is scheduled to be formally sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In the months after the crash, the community tried to help the Schonert family with fund-raisers and a trust fund for the children.
Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief Floyd Hoffman said Wednesday that Schonert is being reassigned to administrative work in the department’s headquarters downtown, standard procedure when a firefighter is charged with a felony.
He said the allegations have saddened the department that rallied around Schonert and his family after the crash.
“Everybody is really hurt that this would happen to one of our people,” Hoffman said, adding that the department remains supportive of Schonert.