Woman says former Nixon city manager sexually assaulted her as teenager

Manuel Zepeda was arrested in August for aggravated sexual assault of child

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GONZALES COUNTY, Texas – A 21-year-old woman said being sexually assaulted as a teenage student derailed her life, in part because of who she said is responsible.

Former Nixon City Manager Manuel Zepeda was arrested in August 2016 and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. He also worked as a substitute teacher at Nixon-Smiley High School, where he's accused of having an improper relationship with a student. 

The woman told KSAT 12 News she's one of the three girls involved in the case. For her safety, she asked that her identity be hidden.

While holding her toddler, she said she's a different person now, but what happened when she was 15 has never left her.

"I was trying to find a summer job and Zepeda was a substitute teacher, and he was telling me that he has a local pool there in Nixon and he would hire me to do odd jobs like mowing the grass or weed-eating or cleaning out the pool," she said.

She and her friend took the job, and she said on the second day of work, Zepeda took them to his house.

"He asked us if he could try to massage us because he wanted to try to be a masseuse. I'm laying on this massage table in his daughter's room and he puts a towel over my face and started messing with me, and it all happened just so fast and when it was done, he told me to go get my friend. He told both of us if we say anything, he said, he would kill our family. He knew where we lived," she said.

She also said she was paid for the massage separately.

"He said, 'OK here's $50 for your massage, and here's a check for your work, for your mowing, cleaning the pool, whatever," the woman said.

She said he told them they had to come back the next day.

"He got more aggressive," she said. The woman said he performed oral sex on both of them. "And he made us do stuff with each other. After that, I stopped going back."

The woman said she stopped going to school, because she didn't want to see him or his wife, who she said also worked at the school.

Too scared to go to police, she said she kept the secret for about six years until August 2016. That's when she said a third alleged victim, whom she didn't know, came forward, and a detective asked her questions.

"I had to take everything I had stored in my closet and just lay it back out on the table," the woman said.

She said it was painful to talk about, and she's working with a counselor on recovery.

"I couldn't have a normal relationship. I couldn't stand to be around anybody," she said.

The woman said she still experiences anxiety when people are physical with her, even innocently.

Tears fell from her eyes as she looked at her daughter.

"I had to quit breast-feeding because of all the memories, him touching me. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand the flashbacks," she said.

Even though she has a lot to work through emotionally, she said coming clean and talking about what happened was worth it.

"I think there's more girls out there, and they're just scared to come forward. And there's no reason to be scared. We're not kids anymore," she said.

Anyone who wants to report information about the case is asked to call the the Gonzales County Attorney's Office at 210-531-4341.

Zepeda became city manager in 2014, but was a substitute teacher in Nixon when the alleged attacks happened.

On Friday, the city of Nixon confirmed Zepeda is still on administrative leave. Interim City Manager Harold Rice has taken his place.

The case has not gone to a grand jury yet, and though the victim who spoke to KSAT 12 is worried things are taking too long, a detective has assured her the case will continue. A Gonzales County official said Friday that the county is still investigating.


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About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.