DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
BURNET — When Grady Hodge filed a request under the Interstate Detainers Act to force Burnet County authorities to take his case to trial within 180 days, he might have been gambling that the district attorney’s office wouldn’t be able to get it done.
And with his appeal on two sexual abuse of a child charges in Wyoming working its way though the Cowboy State’s court system, there’s a chance he could have walked out of prison a free man, never to be tried again on more than 20 sexual abuse charges in Burnet County.
Burnet County Assistant District Attorney Stacy Burke just couldn’t let that happen.
On June 3, Burke’s efforts and those of several law enforcement agencies in Texas and Wyoming won out as a Burnet County jury convicted Hodge, 43, on 16 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and six counts of indecency of a child by sexual contact. That same jury turned around and recommended the maximum sentence on each: 99 years on the aggravated sexual assault charges and 20 years on the indecency charges.
State District Judge Evan Stubbs then stacked many of the sentences, giving Hodge a total of 714 years in prison. Even if he becomes eligible for parole in Texas at some time, Burke said he’ll still have to serve about 240 years behind bars.
That’s after serving his two Wyoming sentences, also running consecutively, of 30 to 50 years each.
“I think (the jury’s) maximum sentences definitely sends a message that if you commit crimes against children in our community, you will be punished harshly and severely,” Burke said.
She added that the judge’s order stacking several of the charges so Hodge must serve them consecutively demonstrated his resolve to holding child abusers accountable.
Hodge was convicted in Burnet County of abusing two girls for two to three years starting in 2004 or 2005. The girls were 5 and 11 when the abuse started. Though they lived in Lampasas, Burke said, Hodge abused them at his job, which was in Burnet County.
In 2007, Hodge moved to Wyoming, taking the youngest girl with him while the older girl moved in with her mother and stayed in Texas.
The abuse came to light in Wyoming, where the younger girl made an outcry.
Burke said as Sweetwater County (Wyoming) investigators began looking into the case, they became aware of the second victim and traced the abuse back to Burnet County.
Burnet County and Lampasas investigators began looking into the abuse in Texas.
In April 2013, a Burnet County Grand Jury indicted Hodge on a string of charges stemming from the investigation. In June 2013, a Sweetwater County jury convicted Hodge of two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. A few months later, the judge sentenced him to 30-50 years on each one.
He is currently appealing the Wyoming conviction. When Burnet County prosecutors became aware of the man’s request under the Interstate Detainer Act, they moved quickly to get him to Burnet County and try the case. Hodge was transferred to the Burnet County Jail in April.
Burke said the strength of the prosecution’s case in the trial, which started June 1, was probably the victims, who are now 16 and 21.
As well as being strong enough to testify, Burke said the two victims recounted the assaults, including many details surrounding them. Burke added that a search warrant executed at Hodge’s Wyoming home also turned up several pieces of evidence about which the younger victim told investigators and then recounted on the stand.
While the Wyoming convictions could stand and keep Hodge behind bars for several decades, Burke didn’t like the idea of him ever getting out of prison.
“He could have paroled out (of Wyoming prison) in his late 60s,” she said. “But I felt like there was a potential he could parole out at an age he had enough time left to re-offend.”
Burke also wanted the victims to get justice.
“They certainly have a life sentence that will impact them forever,” she said.
So instead of letting Hodge have any control over his future through the rules set down by the Interstate Detainers Act — which if Burnet County didn’t try him within 180 days, the local district attorney’s office would lose all rights to trying him forever — Burke, District Attorney Sonny McAfee and the district attorney’s staff took control. With officers and deputies from the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office, the Lampasas Police Department, the Sweetwater County (Wyoming) Sheriff’s Office and the Sweetwater (Texas) Police Department joining in, the district attorney’s office put together the case that earned Hodge a seven-century Texas prison term.
“It was really a huge team effort, not just from counties in Texas but also out of Wyoming,” Burke added.
Staff writer Connie Swinney contributed to this report.