Man sentenced to 40 years for sexually assaulting daughter’s teenage friend in Galveston

GALVESTON, Texas — A man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday after he was convicted in the sexual assault of his daughter’s 18-year-old friend at the family’s home nearly three years ago, the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office said.

Prospectors said Leonard Farrell Willis, 50, assaulting the victim while asleep during the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2014.

On the night before, the woman and her friends were at a party in Woodville, Texas and had been drinking. A disturbance broke out, and the victim went to Crystal Beach to stay at a friend’s house.

In the early morning hours, investigators said the victim woke up with a man on top her, having sex with her.  When she realized what was happening, the victim testified that she froze; waiting for him to finish so she could leave. A sexual assault expert testified that this type of reaction is not uncommon among victims of sexual assault.

After the sexual assault, the victim was able to get up and search for her clothing and cell phone. During this time she recognized the male as her friend’s father, Willis.

The victim left the house and went down the street to call for a ride, making contact with her ex-boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend, angry about what happened, went back to Willis’ home to confront him. The police were called to the home and the ex-boyfriend left. The victim was eventually given a ride home by her friend. Later in the day, at the urging of her ex-boyfriend’s mother, the victim told her parents what Willis did to her.

Willis initially made statements that he had had no contact with the victim, other than seeing her and his daughter arrive at the home. Later, after the assault was reported to the police, Willis changed his statement, admitting to having had sex with the victim.

However, he claimed it was consensual sex.

Late Friday afternoon, after about 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a guilty verdict. Willis elected to have the court determine his punishment. The punishment phase of trial began Monday morning.

Willis faced a punishment range of 25 to 99 years, or life, in prison for the second degree felony offense. The state alleged Willis had three prior felony convictions: a 2006 conviction for possession of a controlled substance, a 1994 conviction for burglary of a habitation, and a 1990 conviction for burglary of a building.

In addition to evidence supporting the felony enhancement convictions, the state presented the court with testimony from a prior victim in a criminal trespass of a habitation case. The victim testified that she awoke one night to find Willis in her home with his mouth on her breast.

The state argued that the court should sentence Willis to life in prison given his crime and history of behavior. Assistant District Attorney Candice Freeman told the court that Willis’ sentence should match the victim’s, who would have to deal with what he did to her for the rest of her life. Willis indiscriminately targeted those whom he thought were weaker than him and whom he could take advantage of.

After hearing arguments, the court issued its verdict of 40 years in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Willis will be required to serve at least half of his sentence before being eligible for parole. Once released, or if paroled, he will be required to register as a sex offender for life.

Willis was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Candice Freeman and Virginia Frank in the 405th District Court, with visiting Judge David Garner presiding. The investigation was conducted by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office.