Man pleads guilty to sexually assaulting 13-year-old

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: Shortly before jury selection was to begin Wednesday, the defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and asked that the judge determine his sentence.

Gary Tanner Royal, 19, entered the plea with the help of Deborah Moore and Clayton Haas of the Bowie County Public Defender’s Office before 102nd District Judge Jeff Addison. Wednesday afternoon, Addison began hearing testimony concerning the punishment Royal should receive. He is facing five to 99 years or life in prison.

In addition to testimony from the victim Royal pleaded guilty to assaulting, Addison also heard testimony from several other girls who were 13 and 14 when Royal, then 18, allegedly sexually assaulted them. Bowie County Sheriff’s Office Detective Chris Sutherland testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Randle Smolarz that his agency received calls concerning two different girls and Royal’s misconduct with them on the same day in June 2018.

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Sutherland said BCSO sent out a press release to local media about Royal because his investigation led him to believe Royal had abused other girls. Charges involving the alleged sexual abuse of three other girls, ages 13 and 14, remain active.

BCSO Chief Deputy Jeff Neal testified under questioning by First Assistant District Kelley Crisp that Royal used another inmate’s personal identification number to make a call to his “Uncle Mike” while in the Bowie County jail. Neal said defendants who are concerned that the content of their conversations, which are not private, might be used against them often will use another offender’s account.

In his call, Royal laments that he did what any 18-year-old man would do with 13 and 14-year-old girls. Royal describes his accusers as “underage ho’s” and states that he was just a teenager doing what any man his age would do. The victim Royal pleaded guilty to assaulting was in middle school at the time of the assault while Royal was in high school.

The victim testified Wednesday under questioning by First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp that she only knew Royal through his social media connections with her friends when he showed up to give her and another girl a ride to a baseball game in January 2018. The victim said Royal claimed to have “forgotten something” and stopped off at his uncle’s residence in Redwater.

The victim said that instead of picking something up, Royal headed to the kitchen where he prepared a package of Ramen noodles and began making unwelcome sexual advances. The girl said she was saying, “stop” and “no” as Royal removed her clothes and assaulted her. The victim’s mother testified that her daughter became uncharacteristically silent and would not reveal where the bruises on her thighs came from when her mother noticed them.

The victim testified that she becomes panicky, shaky and generally anxious when she sees a large truck with loud exhaust similar to Royal’s. She said the sound of a microwave beeping, as Royal’s uncle’s did when he cooked noodles, sets her heart racing too.

Several other girls testified that Royal snuck them out of their houses or used his relationship with their brother.

Royal was convicted as a juvenile of lewd molestation in McCurtain County, Okla. Royal was 13 when he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a 3-year-old girl.

Addison is expected to hear additional testimony Thursday in Royal’s punishment trial to the judge. Addison has the option of sentencing Royal to five to 99 years or life in prison.

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