Dwayne Bernard Howard, 52, of Houston was found guilty by a jury on Jan. 24 for aggravated sexual assault of a child before being sentenced by Judge Maggie Jaramillo to 45 years in prison in accordance with a plea agreement.
Howard originally entered a plea of not guilty to begin his trial in the 400th District Court on Jan. 22. After the jury was seated, assistant district attorneys Jenna Rudoff and Claire Andresen presented evidence to the court in a hearing outside the presence of the jury regarding the sexual abuse committed by the defendant against the 7-year-old child in this case. They also presented evidence that Howard also sexually abused four other children when they were between the ages of 6 and 15 years. After the evidence was heard by the court, the defendant decided to plead guilty before the jury and have the court assess his punishment.
On Jan. 24, after Howard pled guilty to the jury, the state presented additional evidence that the defendant had three prior felony convictions, including an indecency with a child by sexual contact conviction in 1999 that earned him six years in prison. After hearing the punishment evidence, the court sentenced Howard to 45 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Institutional Division. Under Texas law, Howard is not eligible for parole until he has served at least half of his sentence.
Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Detective Dawn Welch led the investigation in Fort Bend County. Discovering that there were four additional children who had been sexually assaulted by Howard over the last two decades in neighboring Harris County, Welch joined Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy (now Sergeant) Tyrone Tribbett in completing a full and thorough investigation related to all of the children abused by Howard.
The extensive investigation and successful prosecution could not have been possible without the diligent work and efforts of all agencies involved, including the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office. Additionally, the Child Advocates of Fort Bend and the Harris County Children’s Assessment Center played a vital role in providing access to resources and services for all of the children, during and following the investigation.
Rudoff, lead prosecutor on the case, commended all of the witnesses who revealed the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Howard.
“It is very difficult for any child to speak out about sexual abuse and face their abuser in a courtroom full of strangers,” she said. “When children speak up, we must listen and make sure their voices are heard. In this case, the voices of these incredibly brave young children ensured the defendant will never be able to harm another child again. They are our heroes.”
Andresen especially praised the young child who is the survivor of the sexual assault in the case.
“This child courageously stood up to their abuser and saw to it that the defendant was held accountable for his heinous actions,” Andresen said. “The verdict and punishment in this case sends a strong message to the community that sexual abuse of children in Fort Bend County will not be tolerated, and individuals who commit such offenses will suffer the severe consequences that justice requires.”
Aggravated sexual assault of a child is a first-degree felony in this case, punishable by 5-99 years, or life, in prison and a fine up to $10,000.