LIBERTY, Texas – A convicted rapist was arrested and handcuffed Tuesday morning while sitting on a friend’s toilet, according to the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force.
Eric McGowen, 20, had been on the run since he slipped out of the Liberty County courthouse last month on the first day of his gang rape trial.
A friend said McGowen showed up at his apartment on Greens Parkway last night looking for a haircut and a place to stay.
"We don’t watch the news, we don’t have cable in the house. So I didn’t know exactly, but I had heard through rumors that he had left court, and this and that," the friend said. "But like I said, I hadn’t seen him until he popped up at my house. But he knew where I was staying since he had been here for a haircut before."
Police learned McGowen’s whereabouts when the pulled the friend over on a traffic stop Tuesday morning.
"I was like look man, he just popped up man," the friend said. "I don’t like to ask questions, you know what I mean? In this situation, I didn’t want to know where he was going. But I told him he couldn’t stay, he was supposed to be gone yesterday."
McGowen was the first of 14 adults accused of raping the pre-teen to stand trial. Investigators said the sexual assaults occurred during a nearly three-month span in 2010. Six juveniles also were charged.
After two co-defendants who pleaded guilty testified against him, McGowen left the courthouse during an afternoon break and never came back.
Despite his absence, the trial continued. The victim, who is now 13, took the stand to describe what happened to her. Shell told jurors that McGowen took her to a house where she had sex with multiple males.
She briefly broke down in tears as jurors were shown a few minutes of video of the October 2010 sexual assault.
She said she was brought into what she described as the "baby room" in the house, and that McGowen and others took turns having sex with her.
On August 30, jurors sentenced McGowen to 99 years and a $10,000 fine for aggravated sexual assault.
His friend thinks McGowen’s sentence was unfair.
"I’ve been in the system so I know how it is. They give people too much time for things, so I feel like he got royally messed over," the man said. He didn’t want to give us his name.
The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force is made up of officers from several agencies, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Houston Police Department and U. S. Marshals.
McGowen was turned over to Liberty County and the Texas Rangers immediately after his arrest.