Child molester found guilty by judge

January 28, 2010 3:41:21 PM PST
There's been a guilty verdict for the man who fled halfway around the world to avoid child sexual assault charges. The punishment phase of the Darren Castleberry case is underway. Castleberry was found guilty on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He was the subject of an international manhunt before being brought back to Houston to face the charges.

Without a jury present, it took Judge Kevin Fine about an hour to return his verdict, but Darren Castleberry did not show any emotion.

Judge Fine said, "I find the defendant, Darren Ray Castleberry, guilty of aggravated sexual assault as charged in the indictment."

Castleberry was found guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault. The judge also accepted an earlier guilty plea of two lesser counts of the same offense.

"I will accept your plea of guilty and I will find you guilty of sexual assault," Judge Fine said.

Castleberry was on trial for the molestation of two young girls dating back to 1984. One of those victims is a relative. Although he had pleaded guilty to having sex with the victims after the age 14, he denied molesting them before that.

His attorney, during closing arguments, called into question the victims' recollections of the events and the years.

"I find it troubling when we're talking about convicting a person of a very, very serious crime with very, very serious penalties beyond a reasonable doubt on the basis of such evidence," said defense attorney Eric Little.

But the state argued witness testimony was backed up with graphic videotape evidence. Castleberry had shot some of those encounters. Castleberry shook his head as the prosecution painted him as a sexual predator.

Prosecutor Matt Peneguy said, "Both were tortured by the defendant. Both were touched, molested, violated by the defendant."

During the sentencing phase, the state called its first witness, a woman who says she was molested as a child by Castleberry. She says that NyQuil was even used to knock her out. The state plans to call at least seven alleged victims. Castleberry faces up to life in prison.