Local junior high custodian faces prostitution charges

Suspect accused of soliciting underage students at Sharyland North

McALLEN — Police here arrested a former Sharyland North Junior High School custodian on prostitution charges last week after he allegedly solicited two male students for oral sex.

Manuel Martinez-Cruz, 56, of McAllen, was arrested March 27 on two felony counts of prostitution — specifically for soliciting a person younger than 18 years old — and one misdemeanor count of making a terroristic threat. He was released from jail on a $52,000 cash bond the next day, according to court records.

Martinez-Cruz was terminated March 7, according to Sharyland Independent School District spokeswoman Rocio Landin.

A student, who police gave the pseudonym “Carlos,” alerted a school coach on March 5 of multiple alleged incidents involving Martinez-Cruz dating back to January, according to a probable cause affidavit. These included the custodian allegedly touching Carlos’ backside in a school restroom and approaching the student in a pavilion and saying, “Hey, Mexican boy, $40.00,” while gesturing toward his genitals, the affidavit stated.

Martinez-Cruz is also accused of threatening the student by pulling a knife on him in the hallway, allegedly telling Carlos he would stab him, according to the affidavit.

“Austin,” a fellow student and friend of Carlos, told police the custodian allegedly offered him money in exchange for sexual favors on at least two occasions, and touched his backside in the bathroom.

The school coach became aware of these incidents after he overheard people arguing in the men’s restroom during the lunch hour on March 5, and entered to find these students, as well as a third friend, and Martinez-Cruz.

Carlos told the coach Martinez-Cruz walked up and grabbed his ribs from behind while the boys were eating in the cafeteria. When Martinez-Cruz followed them into the restroom, they confronted him about why he touched Carlos, to which he allegedly replied, “Because I like little Mexican boys.”

“The Sharyland ISD is working with law enforcement who are investigating the allegations,” the school district said in a statement. “The district has communicated with those impacted by the allegations.”

If convicted of the second degree felony prostitution charges, Martinez-Cruz faces up to 20 years in prison.