Breckenridge Texan

Local court documents reveal more details about Wednesday’s arrests for child sex crimes

Local court documents reveal more details about Wednesday’s arrests for child sex crimes
July 06
11:31 2023

By Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

An undercover operation by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Criminal Investigations Division (CID) resulted in the arrest of two Breckenridge men on Wednesday, July 5, according to documents filed in the Stephens County Justice Court today.

During an online solicitation investigation in Stephens County, Brown County and Taylor County, a suspect going by the name Eric O’Neill was in contact with an online profile established by an undercover officer, according to the DPS Complaint/Probable Cause Affidavit filed in the Stephens County Justice Court this morning, July 6. After finding out that the person he thought he was communicating with was 14 years old, the suspect continued communication and elevated the communication to express that he intended to engage in sexual contact with the minor (undercover officer).

According to the affidavit, O’Neill then went to a prearranged location in Breckenridge at a prearranged time to meet the person he thought was 14 years old for the purposes of the sexual contact. O’Neill went to the location with a second suspect, Howard Rich Rice. The Texas DPS-CID, assisted by the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office, took O’Neill (aka Eric Jeremiah O’Neill) and Rice into custody in a parking lot in the 1200 block of West Walker Street,

After the two were taken into custody, they were interviewed at the Stephens County Law Enforcement Center. According to the affidavit, Rice gave a statement admitting to traveling to meet a 14-year-old minor (undercover officer) for the purposes of sex with both the minor and O’Neill at the men’s apartment in Breckenridge. O’Neill’s interview corroborated that Rice and O’Neill were at the location to have sexual contact with the minor (undercover officer). The two men reportedly live in an apartment in the 1100 block of West Elliott Street, next to Breckenridge’s South Elementary School.

Third degree felony sexual assault of a child, Texas Penal Code 22.011 (Criminal Attempt), charges have been filed against Rice, according to the affidavit. Rice’s bond was set at $50,000 by County Judge Michael Roach, who was filling in for Justice of the Peace Steve Spoon, who was out of the office.

Roach set several bond conditions that Rice must meet if he posts bail, including observing a 9 p.m. curfew, wearing an ankle monitor, not possessing a weapon, not having contact with anyone under the age of 18, and more. Click the following link to read all of the bond conditions set for Rice:  Bond Conditions for Rice

Rice has requested that legal counsel be appointed for his defense, according to the Magistration Warning Certification from the Stephens County Justice Court.

O’Neill was extradited to Brown County, where he had a warrant for the second degree felony charge of sexual performance of a child, according to Stephens County Justice Court documents. According to the Brown County Jail’s online custody list, O’Neill was also jailed on charges of online solicitation of a minor. The Brown County website shows that O’Neill’s bond was set at $25,000 for the second degree felony charge. Charges may be filed against O’Neill in Breckenridge at a later date.


(Eric Jeremiah O’Neill photo courtesy of the Brown County Jail. Howard Rich Rice photo courtesy of the Stephens County Jail.)



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