By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – For the second time in as many months, a Mineral Wells man was sentenced to life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a child.
After entering a guilty plea on Monday, Thomas Edgar Lee Jr., 30, was sentenced to 99 years in prison – without parole or early release – and a $10,000 fine for aggravated sexual assault of a child. This occurred during his sentencing hearing, Tuesday morning, in the Palo Pinto County Courthouse.
District Judge Mike Moore did not hesitate to pass down the maximum punishment for the offense, which occurred at a Mineral Wells residence in January 2013. Often referred to as "super aggravated sexual assault," the first-degree felony carries a range of punishment of no less than 25 years imprisonment without parole and no more than 99 years with a maximum fine of $10,000.
Evidence presented at the hearing included allegations by two other children who claimed Lee sexually assaulted them as well. All of the children involved were under the age of six.
"Judge Moore's assessment of the maximum sentence in this case continues to exemplify this community's intolerance of child abuse," District Attorney Mike Burns said after the sentencing. "Child predators need to be on notice that if you abuse our children in our community, we will find you and vigorously prosecute you."
Last month, Burns helped orchestrate a Palo Pinto County jury's sentencing of 32-year-old Steven Matthew Carroll to 99 years in prison without parole and a $10,000 fine for the same offense as Lee. Carroll was convicted of sexually assaulting a child three years ago.
It only took the seven-man, five-woman jury 12 minutes to deliberate before slapping Carroll with the maximum punishment for his first-degree felony.
"Sexual abuse of children is always a concern and a high priority in my office," Burns said after Carroll's trial. "We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who prey upon the most vulnerable and innocent members of our community: our children.”