Ethan Brown, 36, of Dayton, was convicted of the 2012 rape of a Montgomery County woman on Wednesday following a two-day trial in the courtroom of 75th State District Judge Mark Morefield. The seven-woman, five-man jury sentenced Brown, who the prosecution described as “relentless and obsessed with sex,” to 20 years in prison.
His 20-year prison sentence will be served consecutively after Brown completes a 10-year sentence that was handed down in November 2021 for repeated violations of bond conditions. A court order was in place to prevent contact between Brown and his ex-wife. In addition to other violations, he sent 380-plus letters from jail to his daughter, some of which the prosecution proved were directed to his ex-wife.
His ex-wife, who was married to him for eight years and accused him of raping her in January 2020, offered tearful testimony Wednesday during the punishment phase of the trial.
“I want y’all to put his ass away. He did this to her 10 years ago. How many others will there be? He’s a horrible person,” his ex-wife said.
Sobbing throughout her testimony, she described him as a predator who will reoffend if given the opportunity.
“One hundred percent he will do this again,” she said.
Another of Brown’s alleged victims, whose case has not yet been brought to trial, testified that Brown sexually assaulted her and threw her out of his vehicle, unconscious and naked in unfamiliar settings in Harris County. A passerby noticed her the next morning lying on the ground in a vacant lot, her clothes neatly folded beside her. Barefooted, she walked a couple of miles to a friend’s home.
The most damning testimony during the trial came from the victim of the 2012 rape. Throughout her testimony, Brown was noticeably uncomfortable, fumbling with papers and avoiding eye contact with the victim, who stared in his direction several times.
She described meeting Brown at Big Texas, a nightclub in Spring. She was 21 at the time and had only been to the club twice prior.
“I was going through a breakup at the time and my friends encouraged me to go. I was mingling with my friends when he came up to me,” she said.
The two hit it off and spent the night dancing, talking and drinking. When the club closed, she said Brown suggested they go somewhere else and spend more time together. The victim said she was too intoxicated to drive home, so she agreed to go, though she assumed they would hang out in a Denny’s restaurant until they sobered up.
They ended up at a Whataburger restaurant where Brown reportedly insisted that she pay for their meals.
“I had no idea where we were. His demeanor started to change when I asked where we were going. I didn’t know what he was capable of,” she said.
Brown drove them to his parents’ house on Peach St. in Daisetta where the rape occurred in one of the bedrooms. She claims she had given him “zero indications” that she was interested in having sex with him but he started fondling her. She testified that she told him to stop numerous times.
According to the victim, Brown forcefully took off her leggings and attempted to perform oral sex on her, even as she was hitting hit in the head and telling him to stop. She said he became aggressive and pushed her legs up so that he could insert his penis into her vagina.
“It was painful and terrifying. It was hard to move,” she said.
The victim said she fought her way out from under him and pushed him away. She describes him walking away in a rage and feeling scared that he would come back and harm her.
“I was praying that it wouldn’t be the day I would die,” she said.
Eventually, Brown agreed to drive her back to her car. Along the way, they stopped for gas, though at the late hour, she said there was no one around to ask for help.
On the way back to her vehicle, Brown told her to move over next to him and continued to molest her in the vehicle, according to her testimony.
“At that point, I was just scared and trying to do what he said,” she testified.
Once back at her vehicle, she said Brown demanded gas money and she obliged by giving him $30. The next day, after informing her parents and aunt of what had transpired, she was taken to a hospital where she underwent a forensic exam that involved photographing her injuries and collecting DNA evidence from her body, clothes and belongings. She was given a prescription for Plan B, known as the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy, and medicines to help her resist HIV.
For years, her case languished in Montgomery County, in part due to the retirement of the detective assigned to her case. In testimony on Tuesday offered by another Montgomery County detective, the jury was told that the case had been listed as inactive. Numerous DNA hits on the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) went unnoticed. It was not until the summer of 2020 when a Liberty County DA investigator uncovered the information. The Montgomery County detective said the agency has now changed its procedures for dealing with CODIS hits.
The jury on Wednesday deliberated roughly an hour before returning the guilty verdict. Brown refused to testify in both the guilt and innocence portion of his trial, as well the sentencing. The case was prosecuted by Liberty County Assistant District Attorneys Kayla Herrington and Kevin Barnes.
Barnes showed jurors copies of approximately 4,000 text messages, photos and videos that Brown sent his ex-wife, many showing how he tried to use his daughter as leverage to get his ex-wife to consent to sex with him.
“You’ve seen what he does, and you know who and what he is,” Barnes said. “He deserves every day of this sentence. Would you want Ethan Brown in your neighborhood again?”
Herrington called Brown “dangerous” and asked jurors to consider the safety of their own daughters.
“Do not let him out. Show him that we do not tolerate rapists,” she said.
After another hour of deliberations, the jury returned with a sentence of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer L. Bergman is pleased that the jury gave Brown the maximum punishment for his crime.
“When a man commits a series of violent crimes against women in multiple counties, he has clearly demonstrated to us his character and what he truly thinks of others. Today, a Liberty County Jury loudly informed Ethan Thomas Brown what we think of him and his actions. Predators like Brown deserve to serve every single day of the 20-year sentence he received,” she said.
Bergman expressed gratitude for the professionals from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the Dayton Police Department for their assistance in investigating and trying the case. LCSO Detectives James McQueen Jr., Mark Ellington and Sean Mitchell were among those who testified during the trial.
“Most importantly, I would like to thank the incredibly brave women who came forward and faced Brown at trial. Without these courageous women and their personal testimony, Brown would be free to continue his life of sexual violence. The sentence Brown received not only reinforces this office’s commitment to seeking Justice on behalf of victims, but it also sends a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in Liberty County,” Bergman said.