• Gaston Co. man flees court during statutory rape trial

    By: Ken Lemon

    Updated:

    GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - A man has been convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl, but the defendant is missing. A national search is underway for Gary Simmons.

    Channel 9 found that Simmons has a history of violence with children.

    He was charged with rape and indecent liberties with a minor in 2001. It was pleaded down to an assault on a female.

    There was no plea this time around.

    Simmons is on the run and may feel now like he has nothing to lose, according to his family.

    His supporters said he ran because he feared being convicted of the rape of a 14-year-old.

    He faces a sentence of as much as 52 years in prison.

    On Tuesday, a jury convicted him, despite the fact he didn't show up and no one knows where he is.

    https://twitter.com/kenlemonWSOC9/status/666663617450762241 

    "Someone like that I would say, at least to the bare minimum, being dangerous," said Gaston County Assistant Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Garry Williams.

    Deputies have searched all homes that he has been associated with in Gaston County. He is listed as wanted in a nationwide police database.

    "You never know what his intentions are," Williams said.

    Simmons was charged with rape of a 14-year-old girl at his home last year. His son, his girlfriend and his brother testified against him.

    On Monday, just after jury deliberations began, he told his lawyer he needed to go outside and clear his head.

    "I told him, ‘Yes, but don't be gone longer than 10 minutes,’ and that's the last I saw of him,” defense attorney Larry Hoyle said.

    The judge decided to continue deliberations without Simmons. It took about four hours to find him guilty on two counts of first-degree statutory rape.

    His mother left the courtroom in tears.

    "He is a good son. I don't care what they said up here,” his mother, Joan Simmons, said.

    She fears the stress may drive him to commit suicide.

    "Gary, call me. Call me, son. Just let me know you are alive,” Joan Simmons said to her son.

    Once he is found he will be held without bond. The judge postponed his sentencing until he is arrested.

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