Twilight Rapist pleads guilty in DeWitt cases

Sonny Long

Aug. 27, 2012 at 3:27 a.m.
Updated Aug. 28, 2012 at 3:28 a.m.

Billy Joe Harris

Billy Joe Harris

Billy Joe Harris, convicted of sexually assaulting elderly women in three counties, could face similar charges in at least three more.

Harris, known as the Twilight Rapist, pleaded guilty in DeWitt County on Thursday to two counts of sexual assault in Yoakum in 2009.

He has previously been found guilty of sexual assault in Jackson County and of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit sexual assault in Leon County in 2009.

Harris has also been connected to similar crimes in Falls County, Bell County and McLennan County and in Luling.

Falls County District Attorney Kathryn J. "Jodi" Gilliam said she was unsure whether she was going to proceed with prosecution of Harris.

Harris has been linked by DNA to a home invasion and sexual assault in Falls County in October 2009. He was indicted by a Falls County grand jury, said Gilliam.

Michael Jarrett, the first assistant criminal district attorney in McLennan County, declined comment about the status of the case in that county.

Telephone calls to the Bell County's district attorney's office were not returned.

In DeWitt County last week, Harris was sentenced by District Judge Skipper Koetter to 35 years in prison for each count to run concurrently with previous sentences.

In Jackson County, a jury sentenced Harris in September to life in prison for sexual assault.

In April, Harris was sentenced to 99 years by District Judge Kenneth Keeling for the Leon County crime.

DeWitt County District Attorney Michael Sheppard said in a news release he was pleased that the case was able to be resolved with a plea instead of a trial.

"I have no doubt that a DeWitt County jury would have sentenced this defendant to life or 99 years for these crimes, however, the victim of this crime asked us to resolve the case without a trial, if possible, so she would not have to be put through the ordeal of testifying again.

"She had to testify in the earlier trials and she really wanted to put this matter behind her. It is clear to me that Billy Joe Harris will never be released from prison."

Victoria attorney Brian Hendrix, appointed by the court, represented Harris in DeWitt County.

Sheppard said the sentence of 99 years in the second trial was stacked on top of the original life sentence, meaning it would not begin until the life sentence had been served.

Harris was linked to several other attacks in Central and South Texas, either by DNA or other evidence, including those in Yoakum, according to reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety Serial Rapist Task Force.

The task force was formed by Gov. Rick Perry in January 2010.

The Yoakum assaults took place on Jan. 21, 2009, and on Nov. 9, 2009, against the same woman.

"It was important to us for the sake of the victim that Harris plead guilty and accept responsibility for these DeWitt County crimes," Sheppard said. "My heart and prayers go out to the victim of this crime, who has shown great courage and resilience throughout this process. She is a very brave person."

Sheppard acknowledged the work of Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell, who led the prosecution in the Jackson County trial and teamed with Leon County District Attorney Whitney Smith in the second trial.

He also lauded the Yoakum Police Department that "worked tirelessly to find this criminal and this case had a special and personal significance to them."

Harris was arrested by Edna Police in January 2011 after being caught inside an older woman's apartment and attempting to flee.

During the Jackson County trial, Bell said Harris committed at least 29 crimes, including rapes, attempted rapes and burglaries.

Harris, 55, a state prison employee from Missouri City, in the first two trials, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Houston attorney Alan Cohen, who defended Harris in the first two trials, said he was unsure how the plea agreement in DeWitt County would affect Harris' appeal of his sentence in Jackson County.



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