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Texas man sentenced to 117 months for sex crime in Willmar, Minn.

WILLMAR -- Esequiel Gomez Jr., 22, of Texas, was sentenced Monday to nearly 10 years in prison on a second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge for sexually assaulting a teenage girl last July near the footbridge over the railroad tracks in Willmar.

During the hearing before District Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court, Gomez said again that he wants to stay in Minnesota and not be extradited to Texas, where he is wanted on murder charges for killing an elderly woman in Tulia.

"That is not a matter before the court today," Spilseth said, noting that the extradition matter is to be decided by the Department of Corrections, the governor and Texas officials.

The sentence included a 10-year conditional release period after Gomez's 117-month prison term, along with a $1,000 fine and registration as a predatory offender. Gomez was given credit for 351 days served in custody. He was ordered to pay restitution, which remains open in the case, and have no contact with the victim or her family.

As part of a plea agreement in May, the charge was reduced from first-degree level, but the sentence was increased to 117 months in prison, which is an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines.

According to Dain Olson, the assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney prosecuting the case, Texas officials have sent a governor's warrant, seeking Gomez's extradition, to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The governor's office has not yet taken action on the matter, Olson said.

Another hearing on the felony charge here in Minnesota of being a fugitive from justice was set for Sept. 17 before Spilseth.

According to the Tulia Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab linked DNA evidence collected from the scene of the murder of Imogene Harris to the DNA collected in the sexual assault investigation in Willmar.

Harris, 84, was found dead in her Tulia residence Aug. 14, 2011. The city is in Swisher County in the northern panhandle of the state. The cause of death was blunt force trauma.

In addition to the Harris murder, Texas investigators have linked Gomez to the assault of an elderly person in Hico, Texas, in June 2008.

Gomez had been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail on $1 million bail since October, when he was extradited to Minnesota from Texas after DNA testing linked him to the sexual assault here.

According to previous information from Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer, the then 14-year-old victim identified Gomez as her attacker in a photo lineup prepared by Willmar police. The girl reported she had been sexually assaulted around 2 a.m. July 29, 2012, in the area of the walking bridge near High Avenue Northeast in Willmar.

A police officer had encountered and identified Gomez in the nearby park at Robbins Island about an hour before police were called about the sexual assault.

The girl also submitted to an examination at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. The DNA evidence recovered from her was examined by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and then was entered into the nationwide database of crime scene DNA.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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