A janitor who crawled underneath a bathroom stall door at a Live Oak County rest stop late last year, held a woman down and unsuccessfully attempted to sexually assault her before he was caught, was convicted last week and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Arturo Moya Gonzales, 59, will have to serve the 13 years as part of a plea bargain sentencing arrangement reached with the Bee County District Attorney’s office. The three-day trial took place last week in the court of Bee County 156th District Court Judge Joel B. Johnson.
The jury deliberated for well over seven hours during a two-day period before coming back with three guilty verdicts—one for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, another for aggravated assault by threat with a deadly weapon (both second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison) and a third for a charge of unlawful restraint (a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years).
The deadly weapon in this case was an unopened lock blade pocketknife.
Defense attorney John Flint could not be reached at his Katy office Friday to comment on the case or the verdict.
Prosecutor Deborah Branch who tried the case with fellow Bee County assistant district attorney Jon West, said the defendant and his attorney waived his right to appeal as part of the plea bargain and will have to serve half of his sentence before being eligible for parole.
“After talking with the victim, we agreed to 13 years in (the Texas Department of Corrections) on counts one and two, and 10 years on count three, all to run concurrent,” Branch said. “They accepted the offer.”
Additionally, Gonzales will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.
The attack took place at a rest stop on Interstate 37 north in Live Oak County on June 7, 2013, officials said. Gonzales was working at the stop as a janitor, and the victim, a 27-year-old Austin woman, had stopped there to go to the bathroom.
Gonzales followed the victim into the bathroom and watched her through the cracks in the bathroom door as he exposed himself.
The victim told the jury she first saw Gonzales staring at her through the cracks.
“She could see him while she was sitting on the commode,” Branch said.
After he crawled inside the bathroom stall with the victim, the defendant tried to put his hand over her mouth. He briefly fondled her and showed her his unfolded knife.
“She started screaming, and other people heard her outside the door,” Branch said. “Thank God for video. You can see the men outside yelling and banging on the door. Once he heard their voices, the man opened the bathroom door and ran out.”
The entire attack lasted less than three minutes. The victim’s screaming and the response from the passersby outside the restroom prompted Gonzales to flee, authorities said.
No one who was at the rest stop at the time lived in this area, authorities said.
“They were all just passing through,” Branch said.
Live Oak County Sheriff Larry R. Busby, whose deputies investigated the attack, said he is glad the ordeal is over, as the victim had to relive much of her trauma during her testimony.
“Fortunately, attacks like this are not common (in this area),” he said.
While not technically injured, the victim’s innocence was shattered and her sense of privacy severely damaged, Branch said.
“As a result of what has happened, she’s made changes in her lifestyle,” Branch said. “She used to live in an apartment by herself. But after the attack she stayed at a friend’s house for over a week before returning home. She now lives with a roommate. She doesn’t trust people as much anymore. Her entire life was changed.”
(Original story published in The Progress on March 12)
Reporter Ben Tinsley can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 361-786-3022.