August 14, 2014

Serial rapist sentenced to 60 years in prison

Tarrant County jury sentences man who targeted prostitutes.

A 22-year-old serial rapist who targeted mostly prostitutes over a two-year period was sentenced to 60 years in prison Thursday.

A Tarrant County jury deliberated about an hour before handing down the sentence against Armando Ernest Vera.

Vera pleaded guilty Tuesday to six charges of aggravated sexual assault stemming from the rapes of six women in east Fort Worth.

During the punishment phase of the trial, jurors heard evidence that the rapes occurred between June 2011 and May 2013 after the women accepted rides from a heavyset Hispanic man, according to a news release from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

The man then drove the women to isolated locations, where he raped them and threatened to kill them, claiming he had a gun or knife. The women gave police similar descriptions of their attacker. But the suspect vehicle descriptions were different, leading police to believe the rapist was driving different vehicles to avoid detection.

“The patrol and crime scene officers, medical personnel and forensic analysts gave these cases their full attention, despite the victims’ checkered past,” said Assistant District Attorney Sheila Wynn, who prosecuted the case along with Betty Arvin. “Rape is rape no matter who you are or what your past is, and every victim deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.”

A break in the case came when a Fort Worth police officer pulled up to a Chrysler parked in Handley Park on May 20, 2013, and a woman jumped out of the car, screamed for the officer’s help and told him she’d been raped.

In testimony this week, the woman said she was walking to a convenience store when the man offered her a ride. She accepted and had asked the man to take her to a nearby gas station but he locked the car door, said he had a gun and would kill her, the release states.

The woman testified he then drove her to the park and raped her. The woman said she was praying for help when the Fort Worth officer drove up and shined a light on the car.

Vera was arrested on outstanding traffic warrants and questioned in the woman’s rape and the other unsolved sexual assaults.

He admitted to “picking up” some of the victims, the release states.

In the ensuring weeks and months, Vera was linked to the rapes through either photo lineups or by DNA, the release states.

He must serve 30 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, authorities said.

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