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Suspected victim says she scared would-be rapist off with a gun

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 27, 2011 at 4:27 a.m.


Who's Who

PRESIDING JUDGE: District Judge Skipper Koetter

PROSECUTOR: District Attorney Bobby Bell

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Alan Cohen

SENTENCING RANGE: Five years to 99 years, to life in prison plus a fine up to $10,000, and probation from five years to 10 years.

EDNA - An 83-year-old Centerville woman testified Tuesday morning she pulled a gun on a man who allegedly attacked her and burglarized her home in October 2009.

The testimony was part of the sentencing hearing for Billy Joe Harris, 54, of Missouri City, who was convicted last week by a Jackson County jury for the sexual assault of a disabled Edna woman in January.

Authorities say they have linked Harris, who is accused of being a serial rapist, by DNA and other evidence to more than 10 sexual assaults in the Crossroads area and Central Texas since 2009.

Authorities have dubbed him the Twilight Rapist.

The Advocate does not name sexual assault victims or their relatives to protect the victims' identities.

The retired school teacher, who was 81 at the time of the attack, said she had kept a gun underneath a pillow on her bed for nearly 20 years, but she never had to use it until the night of Oct. 24, 2009 - the night Harris broke into her house.

That night, the quick-witted, white-haired woman said she had just returned to bed after getting up to use the bathroom when she thought she heard footsteps in her house.

Thinking it was just her imagination, she said she ignored the noises until it became undeniably clear that there was not only someone in her house, but that person was now in her bedroom unscrewing a light bulb from a lamp near her bed.

The woman said the intruder prompted her to slip her hand underneath the pillow to retrieve the 32.-caliber pistol that she kept there and had often fussed about having to remember to put back every time she changed her bed linens.

Once Harris pulled back her sheets, the woman said she came out swinging.

"I thought I had two options - flee or kill," the woman said.

In the pitch black room, the woman said she informed the man of her weapon.

"I've got a pistol, and I will kill you," the woman said in the same loud, gruff voice she said she used that night.

"Did you say it just like that?" Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell asked.

"Pretty close. Maybe a little worse," said the woman as she and others in the courtroom burst out in laughter at one of the few slightly comical moments of the proceedings.

The victim said she tried to shoot the gun, but it wouldn't go off.

Harris eventually ran away out the back door.

Once she managed to get outside, she said she shot the gun once more.

That time it did fire.

Since the incident, the woman, who escaped the ordeal unharmed, said she was determined not to let the incident negatively impact her life.

"I have not had a bad dream - not one - since this happened. I'm glad I live in a country where in court, women can be treated with dignity and justice," said the woman. "I want to put this behind me, and I look forward to a good life ahead."

Other alleged victims of Harris were not as fortunate.

An 82-year-old Falls County woman told jurors that some time before her attack she had noticed her purse had been tampered with.

Unsure of how the culprit had gained access to her purse in the house, she changed her house locks and installed new security measures, including a life alert.

The morning of Oct. 10, 2009, the woman said she woke up early to prepare for the busy day ahead, including a family birthday get together scheduled for later that day.

But before she was even able to get out of the bed, the victim said she noticed a silhouette in her room.

He then attacked her, ripping off her pajamas, beating and penetrating her vagina almost immediately.

"He hurt me," she said softly.

In the middle of attack, the woman said Harris asked her why she had locked him out of her house, leading her to believe he was the one that had previously entered her house and tampered with her billfold.

The woman, who had previously refused to get a hearing aid, said she blamed herself for the attack because she was sleeping on her good ear during the night, preventing her from hearing the man enter the house.

Once Harris left, the woman said she discovered that he had ran water in her bathtub, which other victims testified Harris used to wash DNA from his victim's bodies after the attacks.

Since her attack, the woman said she refused to return to her house alone.

She has since moved to Waco to a gated community, got a dog and hides her purse.

"It's not only made her very fearful, she doesn't trust anyone anymore," said the woman's daughter. "It has probably aged her in some ways."

Harris also is accused of attacking a 93-year-old Zabickville woman, who needed help walking up to the stand and raising her hand to be sworn in.

The woman was allegedly raped and had $1,600 cash was stolen from her. The cash was in preparation for a gambling trip she had planned with her family.

When asked if she remembered the attack, the woman, who had forgotten her age, said "Yes, I do, but I don't know his name, though."

Less than a week after the attack, the woman had a stroke taking away her previously independent nature. She liked to cook for herself, but now is completely dependant upon others to the point that she has not cooked a meal since the attack.

Her children blame themselves for her attack.

"I hate to say, but we discounted that," said the woman's son who said he and his siblings had dismissed claims made by their mother nearly a month earlier that a clock was missing from her home. "We didn't take it seriously."

Additionally, law enforcement discussed more trophies that Harris had collected from his victims including clocks, an arsenal of guns and a fur coat.

Department of Public Safety forensic investigators also testified.

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

The state is expected to rest its case.

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