UPDATED: Deputy accused of molesting daughter

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A veteran San Mateo Sheriff’s deputy and Gilroy resident faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on charges that he routinely sexually abused his 17-year-old daughter over a period of six years, according to authorities.
Galen Underwood, 40, was arrested at his family home in unincorporated Gilroy Sept. 25 by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies. The arrest followed his daughter’s disclosure to a counselor at her high school that Underwood sexually assaulted her over the last six years, starting when the victim was 11 years old, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Stuart Scott.
Underwood was charged Monday at South County Courthouse in Morgan Hill with eight counts related to the ongoing assaults, including continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14, molestation of a child younger than 14 by force or duress and other charges.
He remains in custody at Santa Clara County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail.
If convicted, Underwood faces up to 58 years in prison. But Scott said even more charges could be on the way, including some that could land him life in prison based on the victim’s statement to investigators.
“You’ve got probably dozens and dozens of acts he’s done” to the victim, Scott said outside the courthouse Monday. The abuse started when the victim was 11 years old, and for the ensuing six years “elevated to forcible copulation and forcible sex acts.”
Underwood lives at his Gilroy home with his wife of 20 years and the couple’s five children. The alleged victim is the oldest daughter. The names of the family members and the address of the home are redacted from police reports. Authorities declined to say if the victim is still residing at the Gilroy home, but Scott said, “She’s with her family in a safe place.”
Underwood’s wife and son were present in the audience during the arraignment hearing Monday, both quietly looking straight ahead at the court proceeding. His son showed little reaction to the hearing, while his wife wiped tears from her eyes a couple times.
Sitting on the other side of the courtroom were two men and a woman who knew Underwood, but they declined to say how they knew him or to answer questions about the case. When one of then men crossed the aisle just before the hearing to talk briefly with Underwood’s wife, a bailiff ordered him to return to his previous seat.
The high school counselor reported the alleged victim’s statement to Child Protective Services, who contacted the Sheriff’s Office, according to the police report. Deputies went to the family’s home the same evening, Sept. 25, to interview family members and eventually arrest Underwood. All of the children and their mother were interviewed by deputies at the home.
According to the court file of Underwood’s case, which includes deputies’ reports of interviews with the victim and family members, the victim said the last incident occurred at home Sept. 22. She told investigators the abuse started when the family lived in Mountain View, and continued after they moved to Gilroy. The victim had come home from her first day in sixth grade at a Mountain View school when the alleged abuse started, and continued “every couple of weeks, sometimes as often as once a week.”
The victim told investigators she could not remember the exact dates of most of the incidents, according to police reports.
“During the sexual assaults, if (the victim) refused to participate or do as she was told, Underwood told her he would take away her phone, ground her and punish her,” the police report says. “(The victim) said that she felt like Underwood was mentally and emotionally abusing her, so she gave in to his sexual requests.”
The victim also told investigators that she has a romantic relationship with a female classmate at the high school she attends. She said she feels like “an adopted kid” around her girlfriend’s family, and she has told her girlfriend about the sexual abuse. At the time the report was taken, the victim had not told her own parents about her relationship with the girl.
Police do not suspect Underwood of abusing or harming his other children, who apparently were unaware of the ongoing abuse of their sister, according to the court file. The victim reported some of the incidents of assault occurred while the younger children were home, but Underwood preoccupied them with a movie or other activity and locked the door of the bedroom where the incidents with the now 17-year-old victim took place.
Underwood’s wife has never suspected him of sexually abusing or otherwise harming the victim or any of their other children, according to police. She told investigators that she was sexually abused as a child, and she would be “shocked, disappointed and disgusted” if Underwood ever committed such a crime.
Underwood is an eight-year veteran of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, from which he was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant, his attorney Richard Pointer noted at Monday’s hearing. This service, combined with the fact that Underwood has relatives in the area who would house him during the criminal proceedings, ensure that Underwood poses no flight risk or threat of further contact with his daughter, Pointer said while requesting a lower bail.
Superior Court Judge Ray Cunningham declined to reduce Underwood’s bail from $2 million, citing the defendant’s alleged “violation of trust” in both his family and the community he is tasked to serve as a law enforcement officer.
Underwood has been out on disability leave for the “past few months” from his deputy post due to an unspecified work-related injury, according to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt. His most recent assignment was on patrol in the South San Mateo County area.
As is “standard protocol” when a San Mateo County deputy is suspected of a crime, Underwood has been placed on paid administrative leave due to his arrest last week.
“The charges against Deputy Underwood were brought to our attention by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, and they will have our full cooperation in their investigation,” Rosenblatt said.
Underwood’s next hearing is scheduled for a plea and identification of counsel Oct. 15 at South County Courthouse.

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