UPDATE: Eric McGowen, the man convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for his role in the repeated gang rape of an 11-year-old Cleveland, Texas girl, has been captured, almost a week after he disappeared from his rape trial. Details at the end of the post.
Take a good, hard look at this mug shot: it’s the face of Eric McGowen, the ringleader of the repeated gang rape of a then 11-year-old Cleveland, Texas, girl back in 2010. He was sentenced last week to 99 years in prison for his part in the shockingly brutal assaults which involved at least 20 men and boys, some of whom thought raping a child was so awesome they videotaped and photographed it all on their cellphones for posterity. I would suggest a parade down the center of town to celebrate the ceremonial tossing of McGowen’s ass into a jail cell, but I can’t. Because McGowen has gone missing. No one can find him. He broke out during a lunch break at his trial and he’s just… gone.
What’s worse is that an Associated Press story detailing McGowen’s conviction and sentencing suggests that his capture may be complicated by community members who still think that the victim, now 13, was complicit in her own rape—she wore make-up, wrote inappropriately mature things on her Facebook page and got in the car with older boys so, yeah, she asked for 20 men to rape and sodomize her with beer bottles (insert massive side-eye and middle finger here). Apparently, those people think that punishing the almost two dozen men who had sex with her, filmed it all, and passed it around the neighborhood and the local elementary school for kicks is total overkill. Witness this jewel, from one neighbor, stupid enough to say this foolishness out loud—to an AP reporter:
Caroline King, who lives down the street, insisted Friday that people still “don’t know the facts of the case” and said authorities were just “harassing people” by knocking on doors in the town of about 7,700 people as they searched for McGowen.
“It’s not as bad as what they are saying. Nobody tied (the girl) up,” said King, 59.
*SHIVERS* And trust: if she could say it out loud, there are hundreds more who are thinking this in their head. And completely okay with the fact that a rapist, convicted after just a day and a half of testimony and 20 minutes of jury deliberation and sentenced to 99 years in prison after only a half hour of sentencing consideration, is on the loose in their neighborhood. Free to prey on more women and little girls. Maybe even their own.
Of course, not everyone in the community feels this way. But good God, the signals being sent by the regular, average folk and some of the community leaders there can make even the most casual of observers shake their heads and think that a girl-child just ain’t safe in this town full of men. I mean, the AP story makes it seem like the community is proud of the fact that a local church sponsored a conference to teach girls to “respect themselves.” Ain’t nary a word on what’s being done to teach boys NOT TO RAPE.
Thank god for the jury and the Cleveland, Texas justice system, which, despite the backward thinking of the townfolk, made its pronouncement loud and clear as a whistle: you can not repeatedly rape 11-year-old girls, videotape it and take pictures of it, spread it all around the town, and get away with it. Now help the police find Eric McGowen, the convicted rapist. Spread his stupid face all over Facebook, Twitter, your blogs—every-damn-where—so that somebody with sense can deliver his fool behind to the authorities, where they can put this animal in the cage where he belongs.
UPDATE: The Gulf Coast Task Force arrested Eric McGowen Tuesday morning and turned him over to the Texas Rangers after law enforcement officials got a tip that he was staying with family in the Greenspoint area. Police say a family member confessed that McGowen had been staying with them after law enforcement pulled over the family member during a traffic stop. Investigators say they surprised McGowen at the family member’s apartment while he was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom. He immediately was taken into custody and is being returned to Liberty County, where he will serve a 99-year sentence for the 2010 repeated gang rape of the then-11-year-old Cleveland, Texas girl, whose sexual assault was broadcast via cellphone video and photographs and divided the small community. Liberty County officials are deciding whether any of McGowen’s family members will face charges for harboring a fugitive.