When James W. Eeds visited the Texas Workforce Solutions center in January 2013, he wasn’t looking for a job.
Seated at a computer, Eeds typed a series of keywords into the search engine: “Topless pics of an 11yo girl,” he typed as one of his many searches.
Though the center’s firewall would prevent Eeds from accessing what he was seeking, an I.T. specialist was remotely watching — and recording — every keystroke. Fort Worth police were called to the center, where Eeds admitted to a sex crimes investigator that he had been “fishing” for nude photographs of pre-teen girls.
“I’ve screwed up. I’ve been screwing up,” he told Officer Domingo Martinez, acknowledging that he had been doing such searches for about five months, trying to catch brief glimpses of naked, developing girls because “that’s what interests me.”
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Martinez told Eeds that Fort Worth police would not arrest him that day pending further investigation. But the violent sexual predator, who had been ordered in 2007 to enter the state’s civil commitment program, knew his fate was sealed.
“I am blown away anyway, no matter if y’all do anything or not,” he told Martinez. The civil commitment program keeps violent sexual predators in treatment and in state custody — in prison, jails, or halfway houses — after they’ve completed their criminal sentences.
Eeds, 46, pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating terms of his civil commitment by getting kicked out of the mandatory sex offender treatment program.
On Wednesday afternoon, jury members delivered the blow he was expecting — they gave him the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The sentence was handed down after just 17 minutes of deliberation. During the two-day trial, jurors heard an audio recording of Eeds’ confession and testimony from two of his former victims, and viewed three pieces of child pornography and erotica that were among dozens investigators found on Eeds’ MP3 player.
Ezio D. Leite, a licensed sex offender treatment provider who had been treating Eeds, testified that he had let him remain in the program despite violations, such as admittedly masturbating to thoughts of children, because Eeds seemed open to receiving help.
But that all changed Jan. 9, 2013, Leite said, when Eeds admitted trying to look up pictures of children at Texas Workforce Solutions that day and in the few months prior.
“I’m not going to wait until he totally crosses the line. The program is not designed for me to wait until they cross the line,” Leite testified. “The closer they get to the line, the more likely he is to act out. And my responsibility at that time is to discharge him.
“… He’s en route. He’s getting there. And I have to stop it.”
A long history
Eeds was 28 when he pleaded guilty in Grayson County in fall 1997 to four charges — three involving indecency with a child and the fourth, possession of child pornography.
He was weeks away from getting out of prison in June 2007 when a Montgomery County jury ordered him into the civil commitment program after determining that he suffered from a behavioral abnormality that made him likely to commit violent sexual crimes in the future.
Eeds was sent to a Fort Worth halfway house at 600 N. Henderson St.
Case managers responsible for monitoring him testified in the 396th District County Wednesday that Eeds seemed open to getting help, often self-reporting when he had committed violations such as masturbating while thinking of children.
Leite testified that Eeds had initially claimed in July 2007 that his victims numbered 15 but by January 2010, had admitted that number was actually 53.
Eeds confided during treatment that he had groomed some of his victims, building relationships with them before abusing them.
Other victims, Eeds acknowledged in treatment, he approached as a stranger, which Leite said “brings that offender to a different level.”
“He’s a lot more impulsive in his behavior. The more impulsive they are, of course, the greater their risk,” Leite testified.
One of Eeds’ victims testified that she was 10 and looking at school supplies at a K-Mart in Sherman on Dec. 6, 1996, while her mother shopped elsewhere in the store, when an unknown man who had been following her approached and asked a question.
“He asked me if he gave me $100, if he could feel or touch me,” the woman, now 28, testified. “I said no. I immediately turned away from him and started walking. I immediately started crying. I couldn’t even see where I was going. I remember calling out for my mother.”
The woman testified that Eeds’ actions left her afraid to shop alone, and she frequently worried someone was following her.
One of Eeds‘ relatives told jurors that she was 7 when a last-minute cancellation by a babysitter prompted her mother to ask Eeds to babysit her and her young sister.
The woman said that after her younger sibling went to bed, Eeds took her into her mother’s bedroom, where he sexually abused her and photographed her in nude poses.
“He specifically told me, do not tell my mother … I’ll get in trouble. ‘You’ll get in trouble,’” the woman testified Eeds said. “I never wanted to get in trouble with my mother ever. I was always a very good kid.”
The woman testified that the incident came to light after her 5-year-old sister, who had tried to get inside the bedroom during the abuse but was stopped by Eeds, told their mother. When questioned by her mom, the woman said she revealed what Eeds had done and police were called.
The woman, now a stripper, said she believes Eeds’ actions led her to her profession and has caused her to be hardened and distrustful of men.
Both victims testified that they believed Eeds belonged behind bars.
No appeal planned
Defense attorney Brenda Hansen had asked the jury in closing arguments to give Eeds credit for the progress and successes he had in his 61/2 years in the program before his arrest.
She compared Eeds’s situation to people who stumble while trying to lose weight or while fighting alcohol or drug addictions..
“That doesn’t mean you give up on them,” Hansen said.
Prosecutors William Vassar and Jim Hudson had asked jurors for 20 years.
“In no way, shape or form are we asking you punish Mr. Eeds,” Vassar told jurors. “I am asking you for protection.”
Protection, Vassar said, for both Edds, who cannot control himself, and for the community.
“He had 53 victims. There are 53 children out there that he sexually abused,” Vassar told jurors. “The minute he gets out of prison he is going to head down the road to a 54th.”
Eeds has chosen not to appeal his sentence, Hansen said.