AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a man on kidnapping charges after authorities say he took two sisters from a Texas home where their mother was later found dead.
The verdict was handed down against Terry Allen Miles, 45. Investigators say he was living with the woman in Round Rock, north of Austin, to help look after her two daughters when they disappeared in December 2017.
An officer found their 44-year-old mother dead from blunt-force injuries while doing a welfare check after she didn't show up at work. Investigators allege Miles repeatedly struck the woman with a flashlight, though he hasn't been charged in the death.
Miles and the girls were found days later when sheriff's deputies made a traffic stop near La Vera, Colorado, a remote area in the southern part of the state. The girls were 7 and 14 at the time and they were found in the car owned by their mother.
The jury this week deliberated about two hours before also finding Miles guilty of transporting a minor with intent to engage in sex and of interstate travel with intent to engage in sex with a minor.
Round Rock police Chief Allen Banks said after the verdict that testimony during the two-week trial by the older girl was vital in determining what happened to their mother.
The girl testified that she saw Miles punch her mother and knock her to the floor on the day she died, the Austin American-Statesman reported. She said Miles later came to her with blood on his clothing.
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said Wednesday that his prosecutors must review trial transcripts, various evidence and see what federal sentence Miles receives in April, when he could be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, before determining whether to file a state charge in the death of the woman.
Miles was charged with federal crimes because those were the strongest charges prosecutors could bring at the time of his arrest, Dick said.
Prosecutor Michelle Fernald told jurors that Miles met the older girl earlier in 2017 when she was visiting her father in Louisiana, the American-Statesman reported, and groomed her to be a sexual assault victim by paying special attention to her and making her feel important. After returning to Texas, the girl exchanged nearly 1,000 phone calls and texts with Miles from August to September.
Fernald said Miles convinced her mother to allow him to move into their home to serve as a nanny of sorts for the girl, who was being home-schooled, and her sister, according to the newspaper. Prosecutors say he engaged in sexual relations with the older girl over a five-month period.
Miles' attorney, Jose Gonzalez-Falla, told jurors that Miles did not kill the girls' mother and took the girls to Colorado to protect them from the unidentified person responsible for her death.