A registered sex offender from Mullica Township now potentially faces decades in prison after being convicted for sexually assaulting a child for a second time.

On Wednesday, a jury in Atlantic County convicted 34-year-old Marcelino Cruz on charges of second-degree sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and possession of child sexual abuse material.

Authorities say an investigation into the assault began when the child's mother discovered disturbing text messages on the child's phone.

Prosecutors say police determined Cruz was communicating with the 13-year-old and he "engaged in a sexual act with the minor child during the first week of August 2022."

Authorities also recovered a sexually explicit image from Cruz's phone.

Previous Conviction

NJ.com reported Cruz was convicted in Salem County in October 2019 for endangering the welfare of a child using sex acts.

He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released on parole in November 2021.

He had been out of prison for less than a year when he sexually assaulted the juvenile in August of 2022.

Facing Decades in Prison

Prosecutors say as a result of this latest conviction, Cruz faces up to 20 years behind bars on the sexual assault charge, five years for endangering the welfare of a child, and another five for possession of child sexual abuse material.

Additionally, he will remain under parole supervision for life.

This case was investigated by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office and the Mullica Township Police Department.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 6th.

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Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt

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