Bond-jumping charge filed against missing man

Date: 2004-08-29

Bond-jumping charge filed against missing man

August 29, 2004
By Scott E. Williams
The Daily News

BOLIVAR — Galveston County Sheriff’s Office investigators still consider Stephen Douglas James, 49, missing, but Bastrop County considers him a wanted man.

“Basically, Galveston County has a severed finger, and I’ve issued a warrant for the rest of him,” Bastrop County Criminal District Attorney Bryan Goertz told The Daily News.

James’ severed finger was found on Aug. 6, left on a divorce decree on the bathroom counter of a Bolivar motel room. A suicide note had been taped on the motel room’s front door.

Investigators later found his empty kayak floating near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel.

James had apparently lost the finger a month earlier, as he contacted a Bastrop court on July 5 to ask for a delay in a pretrial hearing of his aggravated sexual assault case. The reported victim was a 12-year-old girl. His trial, scheduled to being July 6, was moved to Aug. 10.

“That’s not the kind of request we get every day, and it’s not exactly the kind of thing you can make up and get away with, because the next time I see you, you’d better be missing a finger,” Goertz said.

If the finger was cut off a month before its discovery in the motel room, it had been preserved because there were no signs of decomposition, county medical examiner’s office spokesman John Florence said last week.

Goertz has filed another charge against James — bond-jumping — stemming from James’ failure to make his Aug. 10 court date.

“My opinion doesn’t really matter,” Goertz said. “In the eyes of the law, he’s not dead. We have no proof. We have no death certificate. We have no body. Why would we conclude he’s dead, based simply on what we have?”

Aggravated sexual assault of a child carries a possible prison term of five to 99 years, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

“I seriously doubt this individual would be the first person to fake his own death to avoid a first-degree felony that could send him to prison for life,” Goertz said. “What I have is an active case. What I don’t have is a dead body.”

Galveston County investigators asked that anyone with information about James’ disappearance contact Sgt. Mike Barry at the sheriff’s office, at (409) 766-2316, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Anyone calling outside that timeframe can call dispatchers at (409) 766-2322, or the sheriff’s office tip line, (866) 248-TIPS.


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