Man convicted of raping 14-year-old girl disappears during jury deliberations; may have family in Piedmont
BELMONT, N.C. — A man convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl disappeared during jury deliberations yesterday, according to the Belmont Police Department.
Belmont police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating Gary Franklin Simmons, 43, of Belmont.
On Thursday, a jury trial began in Gaston County Superior Court involving Simmons. Simmons was charged with two counts of statutory rape.
Yesterday, after closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate the case. Before a verdict was rendered Simmons left the courthouse and could not be located, Belmont police said.
Since Simmons could not be found the judge issued two bench warrants against him.
Court continued this morning without Simmons. After deliberations, the jury rendered a guilty verdict against Simmons on all charges.
At this time, the Belmont Police Department, along with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, Gaston County Police, Mount Holly police and the Gastonia police, are trying to locate Simmons.
Simmons may still be in the Gaston County area, more specifically Belmont or Mount Holly, according to Belmont police.
Belmont police said Simmons may have family in Guilford and Surry counties. Simmons also may have family in Cherokee and Horry counties in South Carolina.
Simmons should be considered a threat and anyone having any contact with him should use extreme caution, Belmont police said.
Anyone with information on Simmons’ whereabouts is asked to call 911 immediately.