A Fort Worth sex offender who skipped out on his trial after a lunch break was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.
Tarrant County sheriff’s deputies continue to search for Jayson Neal Sparks, 34.
Though he was noticeably absent from his seat at the defendant’s table, Sparks was found guilty of one count of continuous sex abuse of a child under 14 on Wednesday afternoon and was sentenced Thursday.
He testified in his defense Wednesday morning and after state District Judge Robb Catalano called for a lunch break, Sparks was allowed to leave the courtroom because he had been free on $50,000 bail and was not in custody during the trial.
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Prosecutors had planned to cross-examine Sparks after Wednesday’s lunch break, said Samantha Jordan, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
Defense attorney Patrick Curran said his client did return from lunch, albeit briefly, but excused himself to make a phone call — and never returned.
“Even his mom seemed surprised,” Curran said. “She was in the courtroom the whole time. It's difficult for everyone involved.”
Assistant District Attorney Sarah Bruner said the DA's office is considering what other charges might be brought.
“The most important aspect of this case is getting justice for his young victim,” Bruner said. “The defendant saw the evidence was stacked against him and ran away rather than face the consequences. He is now a convicted child sexual predator, and with the combined fugitive task forces currently on his trail, he won’t be on the run for long. The jury’s verdict ensured that justice will be waiting for him.”
After Sparks was found guilty Wednesday afternoon, jurors began hearing more testimony during the punishment phase of his trial. They began deliberating his punishment at 10 a.m. Thursday and handed their recommendation to the judge about 11:45 a.m.
A court official said Sparks was accused of sexually abusing the child during a period of about three years, but the offense date was in January 2013. According to a court official, the victim is a female relative who is now 13.
Continuous sex abuse of a child under 14 is a first-degree felony. Because he has no chance for parole, Sparks must spend the full 30 years in prison.