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Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Sentenced to 99 Years

Hemera/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- 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 assault 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 ABC News Friday 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.

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

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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