LIBERTY, Texas — The trial is over. There's a conviction and a steep prison sentence. But justice is on hold for a young Texas girl who prosecutors say was repeatedly sexually assaulted by 20 people.

The first man convicted in the case – Eric McGowen – is still on the lam after disappearing from the trial after the victim gave an emotional account of the attacks. While there's a warrant out for his arrest and authorities are searching, it puts the end of a horrific case on hold.

Prosecutors say the girl was sexually assaulted on at least five occasions from mid-September through early December of 2010 by 20 men and boys in Cleveland, 45 miles northeast of Houston.

McGowen, 20, was found guilty Thursday of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

The defendant was free on bail when he disappeared during a Wednesday afternoon break in proceedings, so authorities say a security detail was not required to watch or follow him. The Liberty County Sheriff's Office has declined to release any details about the search for McGowen, other than to say that he is believed to be armed and dangerous.

His disappearance is the latest twist in a case that has divided the small town of Cleveland, both because of the horrific allegations and suggestions from some residents that the girl was partly responsible because of her appearance. Police began investigating after one of the girl's classmates told a teacher he saw video of her being sexually assaulted in an abandoned trailer.

Prosecutors' case against McGowen included a videotaped confession and testimony from nearly a dozen witnesses, including the girl, who is now 13.

The girl, who testified using a pseudonym, briefly broke down in tears as jurors were shown a few minutes of video of the alleged sexual assault in October 2010. She described another attack that November, in a home then an abandoned trailer, during which she said McGowen assaulted her with a beer bottle.

Defense attorneys did not present any witnesses or evidence.

Jurors were swift in their decisions. They deliberated for just 20 minutes before finding him guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Then, after brief testimony in the punishment phase, they decided his sentence in less than 30 minutes.

The girl, her family and McGowen's relatives were not in the courtroom when the jury's decisions were announced. The Associated Press could not reach the girl's mother for comment. The girl has been in foster care since police began to investigate the sexual assaults.

McGowen's attorney, Matthew Poston, said he didn't know where his client had gone but that his mid-trial escape must have influenced the jury members. McGowen had faced a maximum life sentence.

All six of the juveniles and two of the 14 adults charged pleaded guilty. Trial dates have not been set for the 11 remaining defendants.

Asked how McGowen's guilty verdict might affect the other defendants' cases, Warren told reporters, "They better get their business straight."

FBI Ten Most Wanted List
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  • Walter Lee Williams

    Walter Lee Williams, a former professor at the University of Southern California, was wanted for the alleged sexual exploitation of children and traveling abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual acts with children. Williams was captured June 18, 2013 in the Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen.

  • Jose Manuel Garcia Guevara

    Jose Manuel Garcia Guevara allegedly murdered a 26-year-old woman in the presence of her four-year-old stepson in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2008. Guevara and the victim lived in the same mobile home park. Guevara allegedly broke into the victim's home, raped her, and brutally stabbed her to death. Guevara is believed to be in Mexico, but may have traveled to the United States using fraudulent documentation.

  • Fidel Urbina

    Fidel Urbina, 37, is wanted for the 1999 sexual assault and murder of one woman in Chicago and the 1998 sexual assault and beating of another. There have been reported sightings of him in Mexico.

  • Jason Derek Brown

    Jason Derek Brown is wanted for murder and armed robbery in Phoenix, Arizona. During November of 2004, Brown allegedly shot and killed an armored car guard outside a movie theater and then fled with the money. Brown speaks fluent French and has a Masters Degree in International Business. He is an avid golfer, snowboarder, skier, and dirt biker. Brown enjoys being the center of attention and has been known to frequent nightclubs where he enjoys showing off his high-priced vehicles, boats, and other toys. He has been described as possibly having bisexual tendencies.

  • Glen Stewart Godwin

    Glen Stewart Godwin escaped from California's Folsom State Prison in 1987, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for murder. Godwin allegedly murdered a fellow inmate in a Mexican prison, where he was serving time for a drug trafficking conviction.

  • Robert William Fisher

    Robert William Fisher is wanted for allegedly killing his wife and two young children and then blowing up their home in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2001.

  • Semion Mogilevich

    Semion Mogilevich allegedly participated in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of investors between 1993 and 1998. After the scheme collapses in 1998, and thousands of investors lost more than $150 million, Mogilevich -- who allegedly funded and authorized the con -- was indicted in April 2003.

  • Eduardo Ravelo

    Eduardo Ravelo was indicted in Texas in 2008 for involvement in racketeering, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and conspiracy to possess heroin, cocaine and marijuana with the intention to distribute. His alleged criminal activities began in 2003.

  • Alexis Flores

    Alexis Flores was allegedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of a 5-year-old girl in Philadelphia. The girl was reported missing in July of 2000 and found strangled to death in a nearby apartment in August of 2000.

  • Victor Manuel Gerena

    Victor Manuel Gerena is wanted for his alleged connection to an armed robbery of approximately $7 million from a security company in Connecticut in 1983. He allegedly held two security employees at gunpoint, then handcuffed, bound and injected them with an unknown substance to further disable them.