Jury determines that local man is “sexually violent predator”

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A landmark case for McLennan County ended with a new fate for a repeat sex offender serving time for the crimes he committed almost two decades ago.

Even though his sentence is almost over, Howard Lynn Thompson, 54, won’t be released back into society after a jury determined he was a “sexually violent predator” or SVP Tuesday.

The designation means once his criminal sentenced is finished, he’ll be committed to a state facility which treats repeat sex offenders.

“I think it’s a two-fold,” said Maureen Whittmore with the state’s Special Prosecutor Unit representing the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.

Thompson has five child sex abuse convictions; three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child in McLennan County in 1999, and one count of child molestation in Georgia in 1991.

The four in McLennan County involved the same girl he’d been babysitting from when she was 6 or 7 until she was 13, violating his probation from the Georgia conviction.

Thompson was also arrested for allegedly performing illegal sex acts on the siblings of the girls he was convicted of abusing, three sisters and one brother, but those charges were dropped for various reasons including at least one plea agreement.

Since Thompson is a repeat sex offender, he qualified to be evaluated for civil commitment under state law.

Tuesday’s trial was the final step of the state’s evaluation of Thompson’s threat to the community. Prosecutors had to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Thompson was likely to re-offend.

With the help of a psychiatrist, Dr. Cheri Gaines, prosecutors proved Thompson suffered from a “behavioral abnormality” which increased his likelihood of re-offending. In order to be committed to the Texas Civil Commitment Center, a jury in the county where the last offense took place must agree that the offender has in fact offender more than once, and that the offender has this behavioral abnormality.

Thompson’s defense attorney’s tried to discredit Dr. Gaines, claiming their client was not a sexually violent predator today, and that he’d done his time and learned from his mistakes.

Thompson himself denied all convictions and accusations Tuesday, claiming he was innocent and was “not really” a threat to children (even though he’d admitted some guilt in the past through signed statements).

However, the state’s expert succeeded, as jurors sided with the doctor, coming back with a “yes” verdict that Thompson was indeed a SVP because he could not control himself and couldn’t follow the law because of his pattern abusing children and needed supervision.

“I think as he sits here today, he still needs sex offender treatment to help him manage and control that sexual deviance,” said Whittmore. “So under a civil commitment order he will be required to submit a supervision and treatment provided by the Texas Civil Commitment Office.”

Thompson’s sentence is up in 2019; if he’s paroled before then, he’ll still sent to a TCCO facility for sex offender treatment (the main facility is in Littlefield).

His progress will be evaluated every two years, but it’s possible he may never be allowed to re-enter society.

When asked for comment after the trial, Thompson’s defense attorneys said they were not allowed to talk about the case.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna released this statement following the jury’s determination:

“We are very pleased with the jury’s decision regarding this sick repeated sex offender. To say that this person has a “behavioral abnormality” is putting it mildly.

We appreciate the jury’s service and the assistance of the State’s Special Prosecution Unit.”

There are currently 407 active civilly committed sex offenders in Texas responsible for more than 1,200 crimes involving nearly 1,400 victims.

Those numbers could rise later this month when another repeat sex offender will be tried in McLennan County; Sylvester Dixon is set for court on January 30th.

More information on the state’s TCCO program can be found by clicking the link to the right.