Courts & Crime

Man who assaulted 2-year-old will spend rest of life in prison

FORT WORTH — Parker County prosecutors combined two sentencing laws to ensure that a 44-year-old Aledo man will never be released from prison for sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl on Halloween 2008.

While having sexual contact with the girl, Mark Gregory Owens was wearing pink women's panties, prosecutor Jeff Swain said.

A jury deliberated less than two hours last week before convicting Owens of aggravated sexual assault and possession of child pornography stemming from the assault on the girl, whom he photographed while performing sex acts with her, Swain said.

The conclusion of the trial was delayed by the two-day snowstorm and Presidents Day. When court reconvened on Tuesday, jurors heard that Owens had fondled a Tarrant County girl in 1985, resulting in a three-year prison sentence.

They deliberated just 30 minutes before recommending that Owens serve the maximum 20-year prison term for the pornography charge, Swain said.

Jurors also agreed that Owens had a prior sexual-assault conviction. That finding required visiting Judge David Cleveland to sentence Owens to life in prison under a 1997 law that mandated life sentences for repeat sex offenders, Swain said.

In addition, the 2007 "Jessica's Law" applies to the case, which means that Owens cannot be paroled from prison because his victim was under the age of 6. The range of sentences under the law is 25 years to life. The law is the Texas version of Florida legislation adopted after a Florida girl was abducted from her home in 2005. Her body was found several days later.

The child-pornography charge is normally a third-degree felony but was elevated to a second-degree felony because of Owens' prior conviction, Swain said.

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