Parker County prosecutors have combined two sentencing laws to ensure that a 44-year-old Aledo man will never be released from prison for sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl on Halloween 2008.
While having sexual contact with the girl, Mark Gregory Owens was wearing pink women's panties, prosecutor Jeff Swain said.
A jury deliberated less than two hours last week before convicting Owens of aggravated sexual assault and possession of child pornography stemming from the assault on the girl, whom he photographed while performing sex acts with her, Swain said.
The conclusion of the trial was delayed by the two-day snowstorm and President’s Day. When court reconvened on Tuesday, jurors heard that Owens had fondled a Tarrant County girl in 1985, resulting in a three-year prison sentence.
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They deliberated just 30 minutes before recommending that Owens serve the maximum 20-year prison term for the pornography charge, Swain said.
Jurors also agreed that Owens had a prior sexual-assault conviction. That finding required visiting Judge David Cleveland to sentence Owens to life in prison under a 1997 law that mandated life sentences for repeat sex offenders, Swain said.
In addition, the 2007 “Jessica’s Law” applies to the case, which means that Owens cannot be paroled from prison because his victim was under the age of 6. The range of sentences under the law is 25 years to life.
The law is the Texas version of a Florida legislation adopted after a Florida girl was abducted from her home in 2005. Her body was found several days later.
The child pornography charges is normally a third-degree felony but was elevated to a second-degree felony because of Owens’ prior conviction, he said
“At some point, God will pass judgment on this man,” Swain told the jury in closing arguments Tuesday. “In the meantime, he needs to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Owens’ attorney, Rick Alley, did not return phone messages on Wednesday.
Using the 'no parole' law
Tarrant County prosecutor Alana Minton, who heads the district attorney’s Crimes Against Children unit, said her office has tried a number of people under the repeat sex-offender law.
And she said Tarrant County prosecutors plan to try their first two cases this spring using the new “no parole” law.
But, she said, she had never seen a case combining the two laws.
During the four-day trial, Swain said, he and co-prosecutor Nikki Morton presented evidence that the girl was left in Owens' care on Halloween weekend in 2008.
A day or two later, Swain said, Owens' showed his girlfriend a photo of the girl in a Cinderella costume. While flipping through photos on Owens’ cell phone, the woman came across a photo of the girl naked, Swain said.
The next day, when the woman saw two more photos of the naked girl posed in sexual contact with a man wearing only pink women’s panties, she contacted the Parker County Sheriff’s Department, Swain said.
When deputies went to Owens’ home and asked to see his phone, he initially told them that the phone was with his brother in Dallas. After deputies told him they would get a search warrant, Swain said, Owens handed over one phone and gestured to a guest to get rid of the phone with the pornographic images.
Instead, he said, the guest turned the phone over to deputies, who found the images, he said.
In a videotaped interview, Owens admitted taking the photos while high on methamphetamine, Swain said. He told investigators that meth “makes me feel like touching anyone -- anyone, anywhere.” He also admitted that meth made him want to wear women’s panties, Swain said.
About seven months after he was arrested, Swain said, Owens skipped a court appearance. He was free for five months until November when he was arrested by Alvarado police after a high-speed chase, Swain said. After the car crashed, Owens ran off on foot, he said.
When Owens was caught, he was wearing pink panties and a bra, Swain said.