Missing Rapist in Texas Gang Rape Case Sentenced to 99 Years

ABC News
Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Found Guilty
.

View photo

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

Authorities in Texas are searching for a convicted rapist who vanished in the middle of his trial and has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Eric McGowen, 20, was not in court for his conviction or for his sentence on Thursday. The jury decided that he was guilty of the aggravated sexual assualt after less than 15 minutes of deliberations. McGowen was then sentenced to 99 years in prison.

McGowen was out of jail on bond during the trial. He was in court for the victim's tearful testimony on Wednesday, but failed to return from a court break soon after. Since he was out on bond, he did not have an official accompanying him during the break.

Wednesday was the first day of trial. Judge Mark Morefield issued an arrest warrant for him and increased the bond from $35,000 to $250,000. Testimony continued without him.

A Liberty County Court official told ABCNews.com today that McGowen is still on the lam.

In addition to his conviction and sentence, he has been hit with a $10,000 fine, according to ABC News' Houston affiliate KTRK.

McGowen was one of 14 adults accused of repeatedly sexually assualting an 11-year-old Texas girl.

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 was the first defendant to face trial.

McGowen disappeared 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 KTRK.

The alleged assaults occurred in Cleveland, TX, 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.

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-TV. 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."

She also testified that McGowen assaulted her with a beer bottle during the attack.

Prosecutor Joe Warren showed a video and read a written confession in which McGowen admitted to receiving oral sex from the girl, according to the AP. Defense attorney Matthew Poston tried to get the judge to throw out the confessions, saying that police had improperly questioned McGowen, but the judge denied the request.

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 and said that the video does not show McGowen assaulting the girl.

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

The two adults who pleaded guilty also testified on Wednesday, according to the AP.

One of them, 22-year-old Isaiah Ross, testified that he saw McGowen sexually assualt the girl with the beer bottle. The other man, 28-year-old Marcus Porchia, told jurors that he saw other people assault the girl, but not McGowen.

Both men were sentenced to 15-year prison terms.

ABC News previously reported that Cleveland police began investigating the case in December 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.

View Comments (130)