NEW BOSTON, Texas: A Bowie County jury handed down a life sentence and a maximum $10,000 fine for a man who estimated he assaulted a friend’s daughter 50 to 60 times while she was 10 and 11 years old.
Tonny Obray Ezernack III, 39, is not eligible for parole. Under Texas law, there is no possibility for parole from any sentence imposed for the continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14. The offense is charged when an offender sexually abuses the same victim multiple times in a 30-day time period.
Ezernack abused his victim for about 16 weeks. The girl, now 12, testified that in July 2017, when she was 10, Ezernack’s sexual assaults of her began. The abuse stopped Nov. 2, 2017, when the girl’s mother discovered sexually oriented text messages from Ezernack on the girl’s cell phone.
The mother testified that she and Ezernack had been friends since middle school and that he was caring for her five children during the day while she worked to pay the family’s bills and buy groceries. Ezernack shared a bedroom with the victim’s two little brothers.
Upon reading the incriminating text messages, the girl’s mother confronted Ezernack and called 911.
“Ask him, he’ll tell you,” the mother said to New Boston, Texas, Police Officer Rusty Hill in a body camera recording played for the jury Wednesday. “He’s been molesting my 11-year-old little girl.”
Hill does as the mother asks after reading Ezernack his Miranda rights. Ezernack admits that what the mother is saying is true.
In a videotaped interview with New Boston Police Lt. Johnny Millwood, Ezernack estimates the number of times he’s had sex with the girl at 50 or 60. Ezernack told Millwood during the interview that he would have preferred to have sex with someone older but complained that his time was consumed with babysitting.
Ezernack told Millwood that he tried to tell the 10-year-old girl, “No,” but she persisted.
During his interview with Millwood, Ezernack states that when he first began sexually assaulting the girl she had not had a menstrual cycle and mentioned that he has 12 biological children of his own.
A DNA analyst from the Arkansas State Crime Lab testified that Ezernack’s genetic profile was found on swabs collected from the girl’s body during a sexual assault examination at a Texarkana hospital Nov. 2.
Ezernack sat quietly at the defense table during most of the trial but was unable to keep silent during closing remarks by First Assistant District Attorney Michael Shepherd and Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter.
“Bull shit,” Ezernack said second after Carter described him to the jury of nine women and three men as a sexual predator.
That outburst led deputies to close in on Ezernack. And when he started to stand during Shepherd’s closing arguments, one of the deputies placed a firm hand on Ezernack’s shoulder and a third moved from his seat in the rear of the courtroom to one directly behind Ezernack.
Ezernack’s court appointed attorney, Butch Dunbar of Texarkana, focused on Ezernack’s acceptance of responsibility. Ezernack never denied the allegations against him and said “guilty” Wednesday morning in front of the jury following a very prolonged silence after
202nd District Judge John Tidwell asked him to make a verbal plea to the jury after Shepherd read the indictment.
Dunbar asked the jury for some leniency that might give Ezernack hope for the future.
Shepherd, whose voice was the last the jury heard during the trial, said Ezernack’s free admissions indicate his failure to see his behavior with the girl as criminal.
“Did you see how he normalized it? It was as if he was describing having consensual sex with an adult. That child is going to live her life with these experiences on her mind,” Shepherd argued, referring to Ezernack’s interview with Millwood. “This isn’t over for her and there’s nothing about him that’s sympathetic. Justice demands a life sentence for him.”
Before the jury returned the verdict of life in prison and while deputies were escorting Ezernack from the courtroom, Ezernack turned to the prosecution and eyed Carter.
“What are you looking at bitch,” Ezernack said.
Carter and Shepherd agreed that Ezernack’s unease and disruptive behavior was a good indication they had done their jobs well. Ezernack will remain in the Bowie County jail until he is transported to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.