Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Vanishes From Trial

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Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Found Guilty
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Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Found Guilty (ABC News)

A Texas gang rape trial has resumed today without the defendant present after he vanished during a court break on Wednesday.

Authorities are searching for one of the 20 men accused of repeatedly sexually assualting an 11-year-old Texas girl after he took off on the first day of the trial.

Eric McGowen and 13 other adults are accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the young girl over a three-month period in 2010. Six juvenile suspects have also been charged.

McGowen, 20, is the first defendant to face trial in a Liberty County court.

McGowen disappeared from the courthouse after a tearful testimony from the now 13-year-old victim. Her testimony included the showing of a graphic video of one of the assaults, according to ABC News' Houston affiliate KTRK.

The alleged assaults occurred in Cleveland, Tex., a town about 60 miles northeast of Houston.

The girl testified under a pseudonym since she is a minor and the victim of alleged seuxal assaults.

McGowen is out of jail on bond during the trial, but after his disappearance Judge Mark Morefield increased the bond from $35,000 to $250,000 and testimony continued without him. Authorities from the Liberty County Sheriff's Office are searching for McGowen.

The sheriff's office did not respond to request for comment Thursday morning on the status of the search.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not comment on the disappearance due to a court-issued gag order placed on those involved in the case.

During her one-hour testimony, the victim told the court that she met the suspects on the street and at high school football games, according to KTRK. She told the court about two incidents in the fall of 2010 when she was sexually assualted by McGowen and the other suspects at two houses and an abandoned trailer while people took videos of the assaults.

The girl testified that she was sexually assaulted by more people than she could remember, according to KTRK.

The district attorney asked her, "How many people violated you that day? More than five?" She replied, "Yes, sir."

"More than 10?" he asked. "Yes, sir," she said.

He continued, "More than 20?" The girl paused before replying, "Probably."

A jury of seven women and five men was shown photos of the crime scene, including images of a room littered with condom wrappers, undergarments and blood, according to KTRK.

McGowen's defense attorneys argued that none of that evidence could be directly linked to him.

Eight of the 20 defendants in the case have plead guilty, including all six juvenile defendants, according to The Associated Press.

ABC News previously reported that Cleveland police began investigating the case in December of 2010 after cellphone video showing the alleged attacks circulated among students at Cleveland schools, according to court documents. The video shows the girl engaged in sexual acts with several men.

The girl told authorities that she was asked if she wanted to ride around with three of the defendants the weekend after Thanksgiving. The girl, described as a straight A student by those who know her, rode with the young men to a blue house with white trim, according to court documents.

Throughout the night, numerous men came to the house and later an abandoned trailer to have sex with the girl, according to court documents.

The video surfaced because some of the girl's attackers used their cellphones to take photographs and to film the assaults.

The girl said that the men told her they "would have some girls 'beat her up' or she would not be taken back to her residence" if she didn't have sex with them, according to court documents.

McGowen is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

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