Lavaca County jury gives man 230 years in prison

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A 75-year-old Lavaca County man has been sentenced to 230 years in prison on 28 counts related to the sexual assault of an underage relative.

The punishment includes 18 life sentences.

A Lavaca County jury deliberated two hours Thursday before finding Hershell Meeks guilty of 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, 12 counts of sexual assault when prohibited to marry, five counts of indecency with a child by contact and one count of indecency with a child by exposure.

Jury deliberations on the sentencing took 37 minutes.

District Judge William Old presided over the trial.

Meeks was indicted in June 2010 for the crimes that took place from 2000 to 2008 while the girl was in Meeks' custody. She was 6 when the sexual assaults began, according to court documents.

"We are very pleased with the jury's verdict. This should go a long way in helping the victim heal," said Jennifer Smith, assistant Guadalupe County Attorney who led the prosecution for the 25th Judicial District.

She was assisted by Bill Squires, first assistant district attorney. Heather McMinn is the Lavaca County District Attorney.

The victim has moved out of the state. She and her family were flown in for the weeklong trial.

Eric Chase, a nationally known defense attorney from California, represented Meeks.

"Mrs. Smith handled every obstacle thrown in her way by a very competent, nationally known criminal defense attorney," said Squires.

"Her hard work and that of Stuart Fryer of the Lavaca County Attorney's Office was instrumental in achieving justice for the victim."

Squires said he hopes the verdict and sentence send a clear message.

"I was pleased but not surprised that the verdict was as swift as it was," he said.

"The citizens of Lavaca County made it clear how child molesters will be punished after being found guilty."