Houston Chronicle

Jan. 24, 2003, 1:29PM

Pregnant teacher pleads guilty to sex with 13-year-old boy

Houston Chronicle

A visibly pregnant former teacher, accused of a six-month sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy at the Pasadena church school where she worked, pleaded guilty today.

Lisa Zuniga, 27, could be sentenced to life in prison or as little as five years probation for aggravated sexual assault of a child. Prosecutor Denise Oncken said the state is not recommending any particular punishment.

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

Her baby is due in February, "perhaps Valentine's Day," said her attorney, Arthur Parras.

Free on $30,000 bond, Zuniga left the courthouse with her mother without commenting. She did not speak in court except to answer "guilty" and respond "yes" or "no" to Hearn's questions about the plea.

Oncken said the student, who was not identified, is now 15 and 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 factor making the charge "aggravated" -- and carrying such a severe maximum sentence -- was the boy's age of 13 at the time of the offense.

Oncken said she will "probably not" request DNA or blood tests to determine whether the teen is the father of Zuniga's unborn child. This is not an issue in the case, she said, noting that Zuniga has admitted to the sexual relationship.

Parras said he does not intend to request such tests either.

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

Hearn took the plea in place of state District Judge Carol Davies, who is presiding over the murder trial of Clear Lake area dentist Clara Harris.

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle