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Fugitive Texas rapist nabbed; was convicted in assault on child

September 11, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Eric McGowen, 20, was arrested Tuesday morning at an apartment complex in the Greenspoint area of northeast Houston.
Eric McGowen, 20, was arrested Tuesday morning at an apartment complex… (Liberty County Sheriff…)

HOUSTON -- A fugitive convicted last month of raping an 11-year-old Texas girl was caught Tuesday morning after a massive manhunt, authorities said.

Eric McGowen, 20, of Cleveland, Texas, had been charged with sexually assaulting a middle school student, and was free on bail during his trial. But he disappeared Aug. 29 during a break in those proceedings; the trial was being held in the nearby town of Liberty, about 40 miles northeast of Houston.

After he disappeared, his bond was revoked and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The next day, the jury convicted McGowen and sentenced him to 99 years in prison without parole.

An investigation was mounted by the Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals Office, Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force. Information provided to the task force led officials to McGowen, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, who declined to say more about the tip.

“From the onset, from the day he walked out, we got contacted,” Alfredo Perez, a deputy U.S. marshal based in Houston, told the Los Angeles Times. “The information seemed pretty good because it fit with all the other information we had developed.”

McGowen was arrested Tuesday morning at an apartment complex in the Greenspoint area of northeast Houston, said Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Greene. Greene told The Times that officers caught McGowen as he sat on a toilet in the apartment and that he did not resist arrest.

“He was on the toilet, using the toilet while he was arrested,” Greene said.

McGowen was being held at Liberty County Jail on Tuesday.

He was one of 20 men and boys who authorities say repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl for several months in 2010. He was the first to stand trial.

Of those charged, all six juveniles and two of the 14 adults have pleaded guilty. Since McGowen’s conviction, four additional adults charged have pleaded guilty.

The case caused rifts in the small town of Cleveland, population about 8,000, because of the nature of the alleged crime, the age and behavior of the girl involved (some alleged she acted provocatively) and her ethnicity: the girl was Latino, her alleged assailants African American.

Investigators were alerted when one of the girl’s middle school classmates saw a video showing her being sexually assaulted in an abandoned trailer and reported it to a teacher.

Prosecutors’ case against McGowen included a videotaped confession and testimony from nearly a dozen witnesses, including the girl, now 13.

Charges were still pending this week against eight men involved in the assault, and the lead prosecutor has said DNA evidence could lead him to file charges against another person.

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Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf. Email: molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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