Houston Chronicle

Jan. 25, 2003, 11:38AM

Pregnant teacher pleads guilty to having sex with boy

By RAD SALLEE
Houston Chronicle

Zuniga

James Nielsen / Special to the Chronicle
Lisa Zuniga leaves the Harris County Criminal Justice Center after a hearing in November.
A Pasadena church schoolteacher on Friday pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child, admitting she had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student.

Lisa Zuniga, 27, could be sentenced to life in prison or as little as five years' probation. Prosecutor Denise Oncken said the state is not recommending any particular punishment.

Zuniga is about eight months pregnant. Oncken said she will "probably not" request DNA or blood tests to determine whether the teen, who is now 15, is the father.

Her attorney, Arthur Parras, said he does not intend to seek such tests either. Police said the boy told them Zuniga was pregnant, which she had denied, and that he was the father.

Zuniga has admitted to having a six-month relationship with the boy while she was a supervisor at the Victory Academy church school, 712 Llano. The teen told police he and Zuniga had been meeting at her apartment on the school property after classes.

Visiting state District Judge Charles Hearn told Zuniga to cooperate with probation officers in a background investigation and return for sentencing March 21.

Zuniga's baby is due in February, "perhaps Valentine's Day," said Parras.

Free on $30,000 bond, Zuniga left the courthouse with her mother without commenting.

She spoke little in court except to answer "guilty" and respond "yes" or "no" when Hearn asked if she understood the proceeding, whether she had been coerced or promised anything for her plea, and other routine questions.

Oncken said the student, who was not identified, is living in Oklahoma with his mother and stepfather. Parras, however, said he had heard that the youth had returned to the Houston area.

Oncken and Parras agreed that the only factor making the charge "aggravated" -- and carrying such a severe maximum sentence -- was the boy's youth at the time of the offense.

Parras said he does not know whether Zuniga has a job. If she receives probation, he said, "gainful employment will be required."

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle