LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - A day after a jury was selected for his trial, a 35-year-old Corrigan man accepted a plea bargain deal of 25 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison for sexually assaulting a young girl multiple times over the course of a three-year period.
Walter Earl Howell Jr. accepted the plea bargain deal right before his jury trial was scheduled to start Wednesday. Howell was originally arrested on a felony aggravated sexual assault of a child charge.
Wolf Baca, who is the president of a child advocacy group called Bikers Against Child Abuse, said he's relieved the child didn't have to testify.
"We would like to see the perpetrator get more time because of what he did, but it's always a win-win. Anytime the child does not have to get on the stand, they don't have to relive it, and they don't have to re-tell their story, it is a win," Baca said.
According to the arrest affidavit, the initial outcry was made to Polk County Sheriff's Office investigators on Oct. 4, 2015. The girl told authorities that Howell had sexually molested her numerous times over a three-year period, with the last time being on Sept. 26, 2015, the affidavit stated.
Two days before the outcry was made, Howell allegedly told the 12-year-old girl's mother that he had been having sex with her daughter.
The state says now the victim can begin moving on with her life...after hopefully finding closure.
"When they (perpetrators) are willing to accept responsibility, I think it's the first part of the healing for the child. The child is validated and the perpetrator is punished," said Kari Allen, an assistant district attorney with Polk County.
The girl went to Childrenz Haven for a forensic interview on Oct. 7, 2015. During the interview, the alleged victim said that Howell had sexually assaulted her and that the last time had been on Sept. 26, 2015.
A SANE exam was performed at a Livingston hospital, and the test revealed that the girl had injuries that were consistent with sexual assault.
Officials said Howell will have to register as a sex offender once he's finished serving his time.