A 37-year-old La Marque man found guilty of sexually assaulting a young girl went missing and law enforcement officers were searching for him Friday, officials said.

Billy Wayne Atwood Jr. did not appear in court for sentencing earlier in the day, the morning after a jury found Atwood guilty of sexually assaulting a girl for six years, starting when the child was age 6 or 7, Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said. When Atwood didn’t show up, the jury sentenced him to life in prison, according to the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors requested Atwood, who was free on bond, be booked into jail after the conviction. However, visiting Judge David Garner did not grant their request.

“It’s not normal to let them go, but it’s the judge’s decision whether to release them on bond,” Roady said.

Garner defended his decision. The retired Galveston County district judge, who also serves as a visiting judge in surrounding counties, said Atwood showed up to every required court appearance since he was arrested and charged in 2012. Although judges may revoke bond after a defendant is found guilty, Garner said it can remain valid.

Because the jury found Atwood guilty of a lesser crime than his original charge, which was continuous sexual assault of a child, Garner said the defendant could’ve remained free on bond during an appeal.

“Since they came back with a lesser charge, I was going to wait and see,” Garner said. “I have done this before, and this is the first time in 23 years this has happened. It’s easy to second guess.”

Garner said he had been confident Atwood would appear for sentencing in part because Atwood’s mother had pledged her house as collateral for the $40,000 bond.

A phone message to Atwood’s attorney, Winifred Bandy Weber, was not returned before publication of this article.

Assistant District Attorneys Rebecca Russell and Virginia Frank prosecuted Atwood in the 122nd District Court.

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and La Marque Police Department were looking for Atwood on Friday.

Contact reporter Chacour Koop at 409-683-5241 or chacour.koop@galvnews.com.

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(10) comments

Robert Shaklovitz

Methinks the judge is an idiot.

George Croix

Prosecutors requested Atwood, who was free on bond, be booked into jail after the conviction, Roady said. However, visiting Judge David Garner did not grant their request, Roady said.
"It's not normal to let them go, but it's the judge's decision whether to release them on bond," Roady said.

Here's hoping this judge does not visit here again.

Rusty Schroeder

Jack Roady and David Garner---Henry please take your signs down next 2 these creeps.

micheal moore

Moron Judge says it is easy to second guess. In this case, it was easy to forst guess what might happen. May he rot in hell with the convicted sexual predator he set free.

Mike Trube

What was he thinking??? Apparently he wasn't.

Connie Trube

Jan Laman

Someone explain to me why in the world a Judge would release a CONVICTED CHILD SEX OFFENDER on bond. Yeah, let's put him back out there so he can molest more children before he goes to jail. Makes absolutely NO sense to me.

George Croix

Saturday, January 01, 2011

"Tenth District Court Judge David E. Garner, a Democrat, welcomed an overflow crowd to the Galveston County Justice Center Jury Assembly Room..."

The answer to your question, from the point of ideology, may, may, be found in that quote.....

Marty Roberts

Gardner is an idiot and this is another example of his poor and lazy judgement. He's the same judge who blindly issued Cox's temporary restraining order against the commissioners court preventing them from giving Cox the very staff he was demanding!!! I hope this is an eye opener to how stupid some of these judges are over in our courthouse in the county.

Here's some info for you to know about our "qualified" judges:

Cox got demoted to the misdemeanor section in the DA's office before he got elected. He was sloppy and lazy as an attorney. Cox also rules on cases that are tied to his financial interest. Look at all the cases that Buzbee has been involved in - Cox rules in his favor heavily.

But I think this is the scariest one - If Judge Slaughter were to apply as a indigent defense attorney in her court today, her application would be denied because she doesn't event have enough experience to practice before her own court. Yet, we elected her to serve as the judge? Look at all the examples of her lack of professionalism and experience over the past 3 years behind the bench. She's an embarrassment to our county.

It's time to clean-up our entire judicial system TOP to BOTTOM and it's time for us to introduce reforms in the upcoming legislative session to make sure these judges be subject to the same standards and rules as applied to all other public officials in this state. Judges say they can comment on Facebook on cases and can endorse political candidates as they wish, yet they also say that they shouldn't have to be subject to open records requests or the open meetings act. Well, that's all about to change very soon.

Gary Scoggin

Inexcusable to let this man walk away.

Jack Cross

Marty you say things are about to change in regard to judges, Do you know something we don.t know ? please explain

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