If a soldier in North Carolina hadn’t been investigated for sexual assault this year, a brutal cold-case rape in Texas five years ago may never have been solved, authorities told The Daily Beast.
In February 2013, a 16-year-old girl was walking near a high school outside of Houston around 11 p.m. when she was suddenly dragged into a grassy area and raped.
The perpetrator wore a “ninja-style” mask and a grey shirt, officials said at a Tuesday press conference. He ripped the girl’s clothes off and struck her in the head several times with an axe until he fractured her skull.
Despite that, the bloodied and naked teen dragged herself to a movie theater half a mile away, where witnesses called police. She was so severely injured that authorities took her to a local hospital in a helicopter, officials said.
“She believed her attacker only left her alone once he believed she was dead,” said Harris County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jerry Philpott. “To this day, she still deals with lingering effects from the incident.”
Authorities that night collected scarce evidence save for the perpetrator’s DNA and a bloody grey shirt found by an employee at a nearby gas station, according to court records obtained by The Houston Chronicle.
Three years later, Levi Austin Goss joined the Army and became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, according to KHOU-TV. In 2017, Goss was accused of committing sexual assault at Fort Bragg army base. During the investigation, the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Laboratory tested Goss’s DNA and matched it with the sample from the 2013 case.
The Army notified Harris County last month about the DNA match. Officials said at Tuesday’s press conference that Goss agreed to be interviewed by Harris County deputies, during which “he provided some key information to our case.”
The sheriff’s office said in a press release on Tuesday that records indicate Goss lived near the crime scene in 2013.
He was arrested on Friday in Cumberland County, North Carolina on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and aggravated kidnapping for the 2013 assault in Texas, in addition to the 2017 allegation.
This kind of attack is “usually not an isolated event,” said Jason Spencer, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, in an interview with The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Indeed, if it was, Spencer said authorities may not have solved the 2013 case. Goss’s DNA was likely collected by the Army when he registered, but it would never have been put into the national DNA database, CODIS, if he hadn’t been investigated in this latest case.
“We’re encouraging anyone who might’ve encountered this suspect—especially back in those days when he was living in Harris County or if they might have been a victim of a sexual assault at his hands—to contact us.”
Harris County officials would not elaborate on the 2017 case in either the Tuesday press conference or during an interview with The Daily Beast on Wednesday. The U.S. Army also declined to discuss the case when asked by The Houston Chronicle, the newspaper wrote.
Spencer said he was not aware of any other cases ongoing where Goss was identified as a suspect.
Goss remains in a Cumberland County jail in North Carolina on a $1-million bond. He is expected to be extradited to Harris County soon.
Now, Chief Deputy Edison Toquica said, “A brave victim can finally move forward and know that this man is no longer a threat to her or anybody else in the community.”
In an interview with KTRK-TV, the girl’s foster mom at the time called the news of the arrest “a relief.”
That night, when the teen went missing, she didn’t even recognize her at the hospital.
“I didn't think I was going to see what I saw,” she told the TV station. “She was bloody from head to toe, and she had no clothes on.
“For this person to do this to a child, he had to have been a monster. He is evil, that is my opinion.”