After a month of jubilation resulting from Cisco High School’s state football championship, residents of this small town received an unexpected jolt.
On Sunday, an 11-year-old girl was kidnapped from her father’s home in nearby Eastland and wasstabbed, sexually assaulted and left for dead at Lake Cisco, just outside town. A 21-year-old Cisco man was arrested and charged in the case.
The startling news has left the neighboring communities of Cisco and Eastland numb as they staged vigils and fund-raisers on behalf of the young girl, while trying to comprehend how such a thing could happen. At the same time, authorities closed ranks to protect the girl’s privacy and do whatever they could to foster a sense of normalcy when she returns home.
The abduction of the girl is a reminder that no community — even ones as tight-knit as Cisco and Eastland — should assume that it is immune from such a violent crime, said Tim Penney, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Cisco. Cisco is about 105 miles west of Fort Worth.
“I would like to say I’m shocked but I guess I’m really not,” he said. “We like to say these things can’t happen but I think we know they can happen anywhere.”
The girl, who turned 12 years old Monday, was staying with her father in Eastland — she lives with her mother in Abilene — when she was abducted, said Bryan Witt, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Her father reported her missing along with his truck about 1 p.m. Sunday and residents in both communities said she was lured from her home with the promise of a surprise birthday party.
Witt said he couldn’t confirm details of her kidnapping.
The girl was found near Lake Cisco and was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. The hospital declined to release her condition.
“Unfortunately I don't have any information about this patient I can provide,” spokeswoman Kristin Peaks said.
Suspect in custody
The man arrested in the kidnapping, Clayton Fought, 21, lived in Cisco and apparently was a friend of the girl’s father. Fought remains in the Eastland County Jail with bail set at $3 million and faces charges of attempted capital murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping.
No court appearances have been scheduled, and Fought has not filled out the paperwork to obtain a court-appointed attorney or given any indication that he has hired a lawyer, said Eastland County Criminal District Attorney Russ Thomason. No case has been formally presented to the district attorney’s office.
“I would expect something to be brought to us in the next 30 days,” Thomason said.
Fought has been in trouble before. In November 2011, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor deadly conduct charge and paid a $100 fine and $257 in court costs, Thomason said.
Abilene TV station KTAB reported Tuesday that another Eastland County resident had accused Fought of molesting her two daughters and that Eastland police investigators had conducted videotaped interview of the girls eight months ago. The mother told the TV station that she was led to believe that those cases were referred to Texas Rangers.
Witt, the DPS spokesman, said the Texas Rangers were never asked to investigate.
“We didn’t open up any cases,” Witt said. “The only way we can is if Eastland PD asks us. It was never referred to us in any way but the Eastland police chief confirmed one of their officers handled those cases.”
Eastland police didn’t return messages seeking comment.
According to criminal complaints obtained by the Star-Telegram, Fought admitted to an investigator that he kidnapped the girl Sunday and that he tried to kill her as he was raping her.
The investigator, Kenneth Preston, believed Fought because he gave specific details of the case that only the assailant would know, according to the complaints.
Fought also contacted Cisco police after the attack, Witt said.
‘He will have to carry that rope’
For Fought’s brother, Brandon Fought, the news was completely unexpected. The last time he talked to his brother, on Friday, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, he said.
“It was pretty much like every other conversation we have,” Brandon Fought said. “It was nothing special.”
Brandon Fought, who owns an automotive repair and custom car shop in downtown Cisco, said he will support his brother but hasn’t drawn any conclusions about the accusations.
“He is my brother and I will be there for him,” Brandon Fought said. “But he will have to carry this weight. He will have to answer for what he has done. He will have to carry that rope.”
Brandon Fought said his brother had been working at an Eastland pizza restaurant and living with his mother in Cisco, about six blocks from his own residence.
He said his brother had worked at a series of jobs since graduating from high school but there was nothing to indicate he would harm anyone.
“He was a teddy bear,” Brandon Fought said. “He loved family. He and I wouldn’t always get along like brothers tend to do but we never fought. He was never violent toward me. He had never had harmed anyone.”
Brandon Fought also said he was surprised to learn that his brother was purportedly a friend of the girl’s father.
“That was news to me,” Brandon Fought said. “I didn’t know them but my heart goes out to them.”
Staff writers Diane Smith and Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.