It had taken the jury less than seven minutes to find Felix Tovar, III guilty on all but one count of an eight-count indictment.
District Attorney Martha Warner said Welborn threw out the second count of the indictment, a first degree felony of aggravated sexual assault of a child, after he determined that there was insufficient evidence in that charge.
However, jurors did find Tovar guilty on count one of the indictment, which was on the same charge.
Counts three through five were all on charges of indecently with a child, contact, and counts six through eight were on charges of indecency with a child, exposure. Because Tovar had previous felony convictions on charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and burglary of a habitation, the punishment range of each charge was enhanced to 15-99 years or life in prison.
Welborn, who set punishment at the request of the suspect and Corpus Christi defense attorney, Joel H. Thomas, also sentenced Tovar to 20 years in prison for counts three through five and at 15 years in prison on counts six through seven.
But Welborn set the prison terms to run concurrently, meaning he will serve all at the same time.
Mrs. Warner said this week that she expects Tovar will end up serving at least 30 years before he is eligible to be released on parole.
Tovar admitted on the witness stand during the punishment phase that he had spent nine years of a 10-year sentence in prison on a previous conviction.
He said he could have been paroled earlier but testimony revealed that he had been charged with possessing contraband and with assaulting a public servant while he was serving that prison term.
Tovar also admitted that he had served time with the Texas Youth Commission as a juvenile.
All charges stemmed from incidents that Warner said took place in February of this year while Tovar was staying at the home of a relative in rural Bee County. The victims, all girls, were four, seven and nine years old at the time. They had each passed a birthday by the time they testified last week.
According to the victims, Tovar would wait until all the adults in the house were in bed asleep and then he would have sexual contact with them.
Although there were some indications that the sexual contact was going on, testimony suggested that the parents did not fully realize what was happening until the girls were taken to a doctor after the abuse had been going on for a while.
Bee County Sheriff’s Department lead investigator, Capt. Dan Caddell, began an investigation at that point.
Tovar testified during the punishment phase of the trial that he had been working as a carpenter and a cabinet maker but that he had done other types of construction work.
“I can tell the judge that I’m not guilty of the charges. There are all false charges,” Tovar said.
The defendant said he believed the victims had been coaxed by their mother before they testified.
“I’m talking from my heart,” Tovar told Welborn. “I feel I don’t deserve this. I don’t belong in prison.”
Warner said the witness that probably had the most compelling testimony earlier in the trial was a man who had been an inmate at the Bee County Jail and had spoken to Tovar while he was there.
Warner said the man testified that Tovar admitted to him while they were in jail together that he had committed the burglary and that he had sex with the victims. She said the man testified that Tovar had been told by another inmate that anyone could beat a charge in Beeville by simply looking into the eyes of jurors and denying guilt. He bragged to the fellow inmate that he would be acquitted of all charges, according to testimony.
The inmate told jurors that he was the father of small girls and he was troubled at the thought that Tovar might get away with what he had admitted to doing, Warner explained.
When Warner asked Tovar about the man’s testimony during the punishment phase of the trial, Tovar said, “He’s a convict. He lied.”
Warner then reminded Tovar that he, too, is a convict.
“Yes.” Tovar responded. “But I’m an ex-convict. I’ve paid my debt (to society).”