Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge man sentenced to life in prison for sex abuse of a child

Breckenridge man sentenced to life in prison for sex abuse of a child
March 24
18:51 2022

On Wednesday, March 23, 61-year-old Breckenridge resident Robert Lafayette Lovell was sentenced to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Institutional Division for life without the possibility of parole after being found guilty by a jury of the offense of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child.

Jury selection was conducted on Monday, and the trial began the following day with Dee Peavy, District Attorney for the 90th Judicial District of Texas, making an opening statement on behalf of the State of Texas. Lovell’s attorney, Tim Ford, waived the defense’s opening statement, according to a news release from the DA’s office.

The State’s first witness was Capt. Jay Walker with the Breckenridge Police Department, who testified about the investigation he conducted after being notified of the offense by Breckenridge Police Officer Brian McBride, who made initial contact with the victim’s mother and step-grandmother. During the investigation, a forensic interview was conducted at Dr. Goodall’s House and a sexual assault examination was conducted by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene.

Statements were collected from the involved parties, and numerous records were also collected. Additionally, search warrants were executed on the body of the defendant to verify certain physical characteristics that were alleged by the then-12-year-old victim.

The victim’s step-grandmother testified about how the child made the initial outcry indicating a sexual assault had occurred and how the offense was brought to the attention of the BPD.

B.J. Stanke-Pyburn, a sexual assault nurse examiner working for Hendrick Hospital, testified about sexual assault nurse examinations and how they are done in general. Then, she was asked about the specific examination performed on the child and her findings.

The State’s third witness was the victim, who testified that Lovell’s abuse began when she was around 9 years old and continued for three years. She further testified about the various locations the abuse occurred. “Her testimony was both heartbreaking and compelling,” the DA’s news release stated.

The State’s final witness was Laura Taylor of Graham, a licensed professional counselor who counseled the victim shortly after she made her initial outcry as a service provided by Virginia’s House/Dr. Goodall’s House. Her testimony was instrumental in highlighting the psychological trauma that Lovell’s abuse caused the victim, the DA’s office stated in the news release.

The Defense called Lovell’s girlfriend to the stand to refute some of the evidence provided by the State.

After both sides rested, the closing arguments were made by State’s attorneys, Peavy and Phillip Gregory, and by Tim Ford on behalf of Lovell. During trial, Lovell was also assisted by Graham attorney Toby Reddell.

The jury, which included eight men and four women, was then sent to the jury room to deliberate Lovell’s fate. After deliberations lasting almost an hour, a guilty verdict was returned against Lovell.

According to the DA’s office, prior to the trial, Lovell elected the jury to assess his punishment, but with agreement of the State, he withdrew that election and placed his sentencing in the hands of Judge Stephen Bristow, Presiding Judge for the 90th Judicial District Court of Young and Stephens counties. During the brief sentencing hearing, Lovell pleaded true to three enhancement paragraphs, which included a prior sexually violent offense (Aggravated Sexual Assault with a Deadly Weapon), which occurred in 1992 in Eastland County and was adjudicated in 1993.

Pursuant to Texas Penal Code Section 12.42, a prior sexually violent offense conviction allows for the sentencing range of 25 years to life in prison to become an automatic life sentence without the possibility for parole. Accordingly, Bristow accepted the defendant’s pleas of true and sentenced Lovell to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to the statement issued by the DA’s office, “Dee Peavy, joined by Phillip Gregory, would like to thank Jay Walker of the Breckenridge Police Department for his thorough investigation as well as other officers of the Breckenridge Police Department for their respective roles in this investigation and prosecution of Robert Lovell. They are also grateful to Sheriff Kevin Roach and his sheriff’s office for their willingness to assist in the trial of Mr. Lovell as well. They also cannot adequately state their appreciation for Dr. Goodall’s House and its role in securing the safety and protection of the children of Stephens County. Lastly, she is very appreciative of the 12 jurors who took time out of their lives and seriously participated in this trial. Our judicial system cannot function without the input of our community in these cases.”

(Photo courtesy of the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office)


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