Gang rape defendant missing, convicted

Aug. 30, 2012 at 7:06 PM
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LIBERTY, Texas, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- A defendant who disappeared during his trial for sexually assault of an 11-year-old Texas girl was convicted and sentenced to prison Thursday, officials said.

Eric Bernard McGowen disappeared during a break Wednesday just before his accuser was set to testify, the Houston Chronicle reported. He had been free on bail.

A Liberty County jury Thursday convicted McGowen of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced him to 99 years in prison, the newspaper said.

The victim, who is known by the pseudonym Regina, had accused McGowen, 20, and 19 other boys and men of sexually assaulting her during a five-month period in 2010.

For the first time Wednesday, Regina, now 13, publicly accused McGowen and provided testimony of the abuse.

McGowen, however, disappeared from the Liberty courtroom during a recess just before Regina's testimony. District Judge Mark Morefield issued an arrest warrant for the man and increased his bail by $250,000, the Chronicle said.

Cellphone videos of Regina's sexual assault went viral around the Cleveland school district, triggering the police investigation. Regina identified McGowen as a voice laughing in the background of one of the videos, shouting, "Beat that ho!" as another man appears to have anal sex with her.

She testified Wednesday at one point she had sex with 20 men within a 10-hour period.

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