On December 8, 2017, 46-year-old Christopher Shane Artz of College Station was sentenced to life in prison for the offense of Continuous Sexual Assault of a Young Child. Due to the nature of the offense, he is not eligible for parole.
Artz plead not guilty to the first-degree offense and requested that a jury determine his guilt and punishment. As a result, a three-day long trial commenced on December 5, 2017 in the 240th District Court before Presiding Judge Chad Bridges. The State, represented by Assistant District Attorneys Claire Andresen and Ashley Earl, presented evidence to the jury in the form of witness testimony, photographs, and a recorded interview of the defendant speaking with detectives. Artz was represented by attorney James L. Mount.
The jury found Artz guilty of the offense in approximately 20 minutes on December 7, 2017. At the punishment phase of trial, the State provided additional witness testimony on the potential effects the defendant’s acts would have on the child victim throughout her life. Mount presented expert witness testimony and argued that the defendant would not reoffend. On December 8, 2017, the jury returned a sentence of life in prison. Under Texas law, the defendant must serve every day of the sentence without the possibility of parole.
Evidence presented by prosecutors Claire Andresen and Ashley Earl, both assigned to the Child Abuse Division of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, revealed that between 2011 and 2014, Artz engaged in repeated acts of aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 14 years of age and indecency with a child. According to the evidence, the acts occurred in Sugar Land, Texas and in another state as well. The investigation was conducted by former Detective, now Sergeant, Jarret Nethery, of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
Claire Andresen commended the witness who revealed the abuse she had suffered: “No matter the strength of the evidence, these are always difficult cases to prosecute. There is no statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against children because it is rare for a child to immediately disclose abuse. The child involved in this case was incredibly brave to come forward, face her abuser, and tell the jury what happened to her. I’m glad to see that justice has been served.”
Ashley Earl also praised the child: “She’s a courageous young lady who stood up to her abuser of so many years. This verdict also sends a message to the community that there are severe consequences for those who abuse children in Fort Bend County.”
The defendant, who did not testify during any phase of the trial, gave a statement to Sergeant Nethery and Detective Ricky Holdsworth during the investigation in which he admitted to some of the assaults that were alleged. Andresen commended the efforts of the investigating officer, saying “a diligent investigation on the part of Sergeant Nethery and the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office played a large part in the State’s ability to obtain a conviction. Fort Bend County is also very fortunate to have the Children’s Advocacy Center, which is a part of the Child Advocates of Fort Bend organization. The services for abused children provided by the Children’s Advocacy Center staff and Program Director Fiona Remko help ensure that children heal from the abuse they have suffered.”
Witnesses called by the defense during the punishment phase of the trial did not believe that the defendant had committed the offense, even after hearing his confession. “Child sexual abuse is a secret crime,” Andresen noted. “Most often, individuals who know the abuser would never suspect they were capable of committing such a crime.” An expert called by the defense noted that this was a “horrific” crime.