Search Continues For Gang-Rape Defendant Who Disappeared From Trial

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

Authorities are still searching for Eric McGowen, one of the 20 men accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Texas girl, who took off during the first day of the trial, reports ABC News.

McGowen, 20, is one of 14 adults charged in the case, as well as six juvenile suspects. They were all charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting the young girl over a three-month period in 2010.

The defendant disappeared from the courthouse after the now 13-year-old victim gave a tearful testimony, which included the showing of a graphic video of one assailant.

The alleged attacks took place in Cleveland, Texas, about 60 miles northeast of Houston. Because the victim is a minor and the victim of alleged sexual assaults, she testified under a pseudonym.

McGowen is out of jail on bond while the trial continues, but because of his disappearance, Judge Mark Morefield increased his bond from $35,000 to $250,000.

Testimony continued without him on Thursday, while authorities from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office search for McGowen. The Orlando Sentinel notes that the now 13-year-old victim spoke with the court on Thursday about an encounter in October 2010 and one in November 2010 where McGowen and several other men and boys took turns sexually assaulting her while they recorded the encounters on video.

Prosecutors have said that the girl was assaulted on at least five occasions between mid-September and early December of 2010. The girl remained calm through most of her one and a half hour-long appearance, though she briefly broke down in tears while jurors were shown video of an alleged encounter in October at a Cleveland house.

While the defendant’s attorneys have said that all evidence against their client is circumstantial, Prosecuting attorney Joe Warren showed jurors video of a police interview and also read a written confession in which McGowen admitted to receiving oral sex from the victim.

Two adults in the case, along with all 6 juveniles, have pleaded guilty in the case. The two adults, Isaiah Ross and Marcus Porchia, received 15-year prison terms, while the six juveniles each received suspended seven-year prison terms. Along with raising Eric McGowen’s bond, Judge Mark Morefield also issued a bench warrant for the defendant.