NEW BOSTON, Texas—A Bowie County jury sentenced a local man to life in prison Wednesday afternoon for the continuous sexual abuse of a girl when she was 10 and 11.
Tonny Obray Ezernack, 39, cursed at a prosecutor and disrupted closing arguments in his punishment-only trial Wednesday afternoon as the proceedings wound to a close before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell and a nine-woman, three-man jury.
"What are you smiling at, b***h," Ezernack shouted to Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter as two deputies escorted him from the courtroom.
Ezernack uttered profanity during Carter's closing argument to the jury as well, stating, "bulls***," when Carter referred to him as a sexual predator. First Assistant District Attorney Mike Shepherd's closing argument was interrupted momentarily as Eznerack appeared to be rising from his seat at the defense table. Two deputies sat immediately next to Ezernack, one with his hand on the defendant's shoulder, while a third sat directly behind him for the remainder of Shepherd's arguments.
"Fifty or 60 times," Carter said, referring to Ezernack's own videotaped statement to New Boston Police Department Lt. Johnny Millwood during which Ezernack estimated the number of sexual encounters he had with the girl.
Ezernack, a childhood friend of the victim's mother, was living in the family's New Boston home. Ezernack, who was unemployed, babysat the victim and her four younger siblings while the victim's mother worked all day. At night, Ezernack would either text or tell the victim to come to his room where he would sexually abuse her.
The victim, now 12, testified that Ezernack began abusing her in July 2017 and that once they began, Ezernack's assaults and sexual abuse occurred nightly until Nov. 2, 2017. It was on that night that the victim's mother walked into the room her three daughters shared because two of them were arguing. The mother testified that she saw the victim with her cell phone out after 9 p.m. and took it from her, telling her it was time for bed.
The mother said she immediately realized Ezernack was abusing her daughter from the content of the text messages he'd sent the young girl, who turned 11 in August 2017. The mother confronted Ezernack and called police.
Ezernack did not deny the misconduct at any time. After being read his rights by New Boston Police Officer Rusty Hill, Ezernack admits that he's been having sex with the girl. As Hill was on the witness stand a body camera recording was played for the jury. In the recording, the girl's mother, indignant and enraged, tells Hill that Ezernack has been molesting her "little girl."
During his interview with Millwood, Ezernack blamed the girl for his sexual abuse of her. He also stated in the interview that he has 12 children of his own and that he would have preferred to have sex with someone closer to his own age but was unable to do so because of his babysitting duties.
During his closing remarks, Ezernack's lawyer, Butch Dunbar of Texarkana, asked the jury for a sentence that would give Ezernack some hope and noted that he pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for his wrongdoing. But Shepherd argued that Ezernack would not have stopped abusing the girl if he had not been caught and reminded the jury that Ezernack told Millwood the victim was at fault for his sexual abuse of her.
Shepherd argued that Ezernack's serious criminal conduct warranted the most severe punishment allowed under Texas law. Continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 is punishable by 25 to 99 years or life in prison and there is no parole from any sentence imposed. In addition to a life sentence, the jury assessed a maximum $10,000 fine.
"This child predator believed that it was perfectly normal for him to develop a full blown sexual relationship with a very young child," Shepherd said. "We are thankful that our jury saw how unfit for society this defendant is and permanently removed him from our community."