Fort Worth

Fort Worth sex offender/child kidnapper gets 32 years in prison

Donell Browning Jr.
Donell Browning Jr. Courtesy Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office

A 47-year-old registered sex offender plead guilty Wednesday to trying to kidnap two girls walking to separate schools in 2013 and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl whom he snatched in a similar manner in 2002.

In exchange for his plea, Donell Browning Jr. was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

“As with any plea, we weighed the risks, the input of the victims, and the long-term protection of the community to come to an agreement,” said prosecutor Kim D’Avignon. “This plea ensures that this defendant will not be stalking the streets of Tarrant County for a very long time.”

Browning was linked by DNA in 2005 to the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl kidnapped while walking to school in east Fort Worth on Dec. 3, 2002. At the time the link was made, Browning was required to register as a sex offender for an indecency with a child conviction for trying to drag an 11-year-old girl into his car while masturbating outside a Houston elementary school.

A detective with Fort Worth police’s Crimes Against Children unit, Dennis Hutchins, was assigned to follow up on the 2002 case, but never arrested Browning.

Hutchins was fired by the department in July over his mishandling of several child abuse cases but has appealed.

In December 2013, Browning was arrested by Fort Worth police on allegations that he tried to abduct two girls, ages 8 and 12, a day apart.

Timeline of Donell Browning case

In the first attempt, made on Dec. 19, 2013, Browning told an 8-year-old girl walking near Western Hills Elementary School in west Fort Worth to get in his car and that he was going to talk to her to talk to the principal.

The girl complied but began trying to get out of the car after noticing Browning drove past the school. She began hitting and biting the man, who punched her in the back, pulled her hair, struck her in the stomach and threatened, “I’m going to kill you.”

Browning soon lost control of the car, hit a curb, and the girl was able to escape.

A day later, Browning called out to a 12-year-old girl who had just been dropped off at Stripling Middle School, that he was a Fort Worth police officer and that she needed to get in his car. The girl said no and walked away, prompting Browning to eventually drive away.

A campus monitor and school clerk told police they had copied down the license number of a gray car that morning after noticing its driver slowly circling the school and looking at female students. Surveillance cameras at the school also caught images of the car, which was tracked to the home of Browning’s parents.

Wednesday afternoon, Browning plead guilty to all three offenses — one count of attempted aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of aggravated kidnapping of a child under age 14. He will have to serve at least 16 years before becoming eligible for parole.

In a statement read aloud in court by a victim advocate, the 8-year-old victim’s mother told Browning that she has no forgiveness for him and that he has no idea how much her daughter has suffered because of his actions.

“I thank God that you were caught and I hope that you pay for what you did to my daughter and all these innocent girls,” the mother said in her letter. “I thank God justice was done in this case.”

Browning’s defense attorney, Gary Smart, said he believed had the cases gone forward, it would have been a lengthy trial with challenges for both sides.

Smart said Browning was a former football player at Paschal High School who later became involved in drugs.

“We had character witnesses but obviously, in this type of case, there’s not enough good character witnesses to come forward and give you enough to overcome that if he’s found guilty, especially with the fact he had a prior sex offense out of Harris County,” Smart said.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd