NEW BOSTON, Texas—A man who photographed himself raping a 2-year-old relative received a life sentence after pleading guilty Tuesday afternoon to two felonies in Bowie County.
Joseph Clinton Leatherman Jr., 30, appeared with Dallas lawyer Gary Unell before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart at Bowie County Courthouse in New Boston. Leatherman pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 and possession of child pornography. Leatherman's plea agreement includes a life sentence, with parole possible, for aggravated sexual assault and a concurrent, 10-year sentence for child pornography, Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said.
While Leatherman's plea agreement involves the sexual abuse of one female relative, investigators believe Leatherman has victimized at least four very young children. Two mothers gave victim impact testimony Tuesday.
The mother of the victim Leatherman pleaded guilty to abusing read the names of three other girls as she faced Leatherman in the courtroom. As she and the second mother spoke, Leatherman turned his eyes from them to the floor.
"On August 15, 2016, I learned the truth about what kind of monster you are," the first mother said. "If you spend the rest of your life in jail, it will not be enough to punish you for what you have done. The only true justice will come the day you are cast into hell."
The second mother said she didn't understand why her toddler, who is now in elementary school, would hide under her bed at the mention of a visit with Leatherman. She said that when Leatherman's arrest came on her daughter's sixth birthday, her daughter told her it was the "best birthday present I ever had."
The investigation into Leatherman's misdeeds began in Dallas, according to a probable-cause affidavit used to create the following account.
Police there received notification Aug. 9, 2016, from the email service AOL that five images depicting child pornography had been mailed by a subscriber with the username infantryman903, which was linked to Leatherman.
Special agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety, including Special Agent Lance Cline, determined the offensive photos appeared to have been taken in April 2016. The images show a male with distinctive physical characteristics wearing shiny camouflage underwear while sexually assaulting a young child.
DPS investigators acquired a warrant and searched Leatherman's home Aug. 11, 2016, on Walters Street in New Boston. During the search, investigators found men's camouflage underwear identical to that worn by the man in the illicit pictures. Leatherman's cellphone was seized, as well. A woman with whom Leatherman had been living recognized his body, the underwear and the child pictured in the images when questioned by police.
Investigators found an LG cellphone in Leatherman's back pocket at the time of the search Aug. 11, 2015. An image of a child being sexually assaulted by an adult male was discovered on Leatherman's phone.
Leatherman's case was scheduled for jury selection next month. At earlier pretrial hearings, Crisp gave notice that the state intended to use a photograph of a finger extracted from evidence in the case to link Leatherman to the images of child sexual abuse.
"Joseph Leatherman is a predator who preyed upon a 2-year-old child. His crimes are among the worst we've seen in Bowie County," Crisp said. "The success of his prosecution is largely the result of the dedicated effort of Agent Lance Cline, the lead investigator assigned to this case from Texas Department of Public Safety. We also appreciate the assistance of the FBI and the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department—specifically Crime Scene Analyst Spencer Price. Our community can be proud of the combined efforts of these agencies, which removed this horrific child rapist from our midst."