In a Killeen child sexual assault case that has been moving through the courts for more than six years, a Bell County judge lost patience with the defendant who failed to show up to a string of hearings despite being notified.
After a seventh no-show on Tuesday, Judge John Gauntt issued an arrest warrant for Wilfred Warren Sheppard, 54, who has been out of jail on bond since Aug. 25, 2014, court records show.
Sheppard was arrested on Aug. 21, 2014, followed by an indictment on Oct. 15, 2014, more than four and a half years after the assault allegedly occurred in 2009.
Sheppard is representing himself in the first-degree felony case. He has failed to show up to seven hearings or conferences on his case since April 11, 2019, according to the judge’s docket records.
On Tuesday, Gauntt, who presides over the 27th Judicial District Court, said that notice was sent by both certified and regular mail as well as through Sheppard’s bail bondsman.
“The certified mail was returned as unclaimed,” Gauntt said.
The judge sent the court’s deputy to call Sheppard’s name in the courthouse hallway.
“No answer,” the bailiff said upon returning.
“Mr. Sheppard was required to be here. His name has been called three times in accordance with state law,” Gauntt announced. “I’m finding bond to be insufficient at this time. He can appear in court at a future bond hearing.”
Gauntt issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday. As of Thursday, Sheppard was not listed as an inmate in the Bell County Jail.
The alleged victim now is an adult, but she was younger than 14 years old in 2009 when police said that the sexual assault occurred, more than 11 years ago. She told police that Sheppard, whom she described as a family friend, assaulted her on Dec. 31, 2009, and then offered her $1,000 to keep quiet. The case began when the then-teenage girl made an outcry to a high school teacher, leading to Sheppard’s arrest.
Sheppard was sentenced on Sept., 19, 2016, in the 27th Judicial District Court, to a year in jail on a state jail felony charge of criminal mischief, according to records from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
In court documents, Sheppard says that during that sentencing hearing, the alleged victim from the unrelated sexual assault case testified for the state.