Man gets life for sexually abusing 9-year-old neighbor

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: A Texarkana, Texas, man received both the maximum sentence and the maximum fine Wednesday for sexually abusing a young girl who lived near him in 2014 and 2015.

Jimmy Lee Mathis, 64, was sentenced to life in prison and assessed a maximum $10,000 fine by a jury of six men and six women on Wedensday afternoon at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston. The victim, now 13, testified that she was living with her mother and brother in a small apartment complex near Wadley Hospital in downtown Texarkana in 2014 and 2015 and that Mathis lived in an adjacent apartment.

The girl said her mother became friends with Mathis and his wife first because both attended services at the Church Under the Bridge. The girl and her mother testified they thought Mathis could be trusted.

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The girl testified under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter that Mathis would give her small toys, such as a plastic car with missing wheels, and cash. The girl said Mathis once told her he liked her better than he liked his wife.

The girl said she was outdoors in a small grassy area one day when Mathis took her by the hand and led to a secluded spot between an apartment building and a lattice fence covered with vegetation. The girl said Mathis told her to pull down her pants.

“I said, ‘No,’ so he pulled them down,” the girl testified.

The girl said this was the first of numerous assaults by Mathis. The girl said Mathis always used his fingers to assault her and at times would expose himself to her and force her to touch him.

“He said I will kill you and your family if you tell anyone,” the victim testified. “I believed him because he showed me some paperwork.”

The girl testified that Mathis showed her a paper which indicated Mathis had once been charged with murder.

In 2017, after the girl and her family were no longer living near Mathis, the victim told her mother of the abuse. Scott Sartor testified he was the lead investigator assigned to the case by the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department. Sartor said he arranged for the girl to meet with a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Texarkana.

Jessica Kelley of the CAC said the girl described being sexually assaulted by Mathis numerous times.

“She mentioned that it happened again and again, over and over,” Kelley testified.

Mathis denied that he ever touched the girl when questioned by his attorney, Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana. Mathis also denied the girl was ever in his apartment.

When asked about how the victim was able to describe his apartment under cross examination by First Assistant District Attorney Mike Shepherd, Mathis responded that she was in the efficiency apartment he shared with his wife with her mother.

Shepherd asked Mathis why he was laughing during his direct testimony.

“Do you think this is funny,” Shepherd asked.

After both sides rested, the state sought permission from 202nd District Judge John Tidwell to introduce evidence that Mathis had been charged with, but never convicted of, homicide in 1970. Tidwell performed some legal research, reviewed some of the earlier testimony in the case and determined the evidence inadmissible.

In closing arguments, Carter referred to the fear and tearfulness the victim expressed on the witness stand, particularly when she could look Mathis in the face.

“He said she’s never been in his apartment, but she knew the layout,” Carter argued. “It was after she moved away from Main Street that she had the courage to tell her mom.”

Harrelson argued that the case is “he said, she said,” and absent a “tie breaker” such as DNA or other physical evidence.

Shepherd argued that the testimony of the victim was enough for the jury to find Mathis guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Who said it was a tie,” Shepherd said. “This child gave a detailed account she doesn’t want to remember but she had to get up there on the stand and tell you what happened.”

After returning a verdict of guilty, the jury heard testimony concerning Mathis’ prior criminal convictions. Mathis was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1971, of theft in 1979, of possession of a controlled substance in 1983, of delivery of marijuana in 1986 and of misdemeanor promoting prostitution in 2011.

Mathis can appeal his conviction and sentence to the Texas 6th Court of Appeals.

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