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PONCA, Neb. -- A Wakefield man has pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl at a park.

Jose Gallardo, 52, entered his plea in Dixon County District Court to charges of kidnapping, first-degree false imprisonment, terroristic threats, third-degree sexual assault of a child and child abuse.

According to court documents, the girl told authorities that sometime in late May or early June she was in Graves Park in Wakefield when Gallardo grabbed her by the arm, put his hand over her mouth and told her not to scream or he would hurt her family.

The girl said that Gallardo led her to his pickup truck, drove her to a corner of the park, pulled her from the pickup and took her behind a concrete wall, where Gallardo touched the girl under her clothes until a car driving toward them startled Gallardo, and the girl was able to run away.

The girl did not tell anyone about the incident because she was afraid Gallardo would hurt her family, court documents said.

The Dixon County Sheriff's Office began an investigation in November after receiving a complaint from Gallardo's co-worker, who told authorities that Gallardo had confided in him about the incident.

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