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Twilight Rapist premeditated attacks, collected 'trophies' from victims

By By Gheni Platenburg - gplatenburg@vicad.com
Sept. 26, 2011 at 4:26 a.m.

Defendant Billy Joe Harris enters the Jackson County courtroom in handcuffs and leg shackles.

Who's who

PRESIDING JUDGE: District Judge Skipper Koetter

PROSECUTOR: District Attorney Bobby Bell

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Alan Cohen

EDNA - An 81-year-old Yoakum woman testified Monday morning that she was on her way to church when she was attacked by the man dubbed "the Twilight Rapist."

The testimony was part of the sentencing hearing for Billy Joe Harris, convicted last week by a Jackson County jury for the sexual assault of a disabled woman in Edna.

Authorities accuse him of being a serial rapist of elderly woman in the Crossroads and central Texas.

The Texas Rangers Serial Rapist Task Force have connected Harris to other attacks through DNA.

Per company policy, The Advocate does not publish the names of sexual assault victims in order to protect their identities.

An early riser, the petite, white-haired Yoakum victim said the morning of Feb. 27, 2009, she was preparing to head to her church where she faithfully played the organ every weekday morning.

However, things went awry once she opened her front door and found Harris crouched outside trying to pick her door lock, she said.

Harris allegedly forced her back inside and asked her for money before brutally raping her.

"I was praying," the victim said, her voice trembling as she dabbed the corners of her eyes with a tissue. "I kept saying, 'I've got to go to church.'"

Throughout the ordeal, the victim said she held on tight to the church key she had in her hand as she was exiting her home.

The victim, along with others, testified that their attacks were likely premeditated.

On July 3, 2009, a 79-year-old Marquez woman said she awoke around 4:30 a.m. to discover that her purse was missing from the home she and her husband had shared from 1969 until his death in 2006.

Her adult son later discovered his mother's purse, short about $250, strewn suspiciously in her front yard.

A few weeks later, the great-grandmother said she encountered Harris when she stepped out of her bedroom door early one morning.

Protected by the lock her husband, who had worked late nights, had put on the bedroom door to protect his wife in his absence, the victim speculated that Harris had possibly been waiting all night for her to exit the room that morning.

"I couldn't move. I couldn't get loose," said the victim as she declined offers from District Attorney Bobby Bell to accept a glass of water or take a break from questioning. "I was fighting so hard."

Soldiering on through her testimony, the victim said Harris asked her, too, for money before performing oral sex on her and attempting vaginal sex.

"It changed everything in my life," said the victim. "If I could just push the delete button for that morning, it would be wonderful."

It is not known why Harris needed the money, but yet another Marquez victim said Harris told her that he had just gotten out of jail, he hadn't had sex in a long time and he needed money because he was on his way to Mexico.

Despite new security systems and other safety measures, Harris' alleged victims say they still do not feel completely safe, but they are trying to move on with their lives.

"I have that picture of a man crouched there," said Harris' suspected Yoakum victim. "But I was determined not to let that get me down. I want to continue with my life as I want to live it."

In addition, law enforcement testified that upon a search of Harris' home in the 3300 block of Lilypond in Missouri City, various trophies that Harris had taken from his victims' homes including more than 20 keys, deer mounts and a clock had been found.

Department of Public Safety forensic investigators also testified.

Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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