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Fugitive gets 45 years for child molestation
Man arrested in Lowndes County after he fled trial
0326ABSCONDERstevan senter
Stevan Senter

A Gainesville man who jumped bail during his child molestation trial was captured outside a South Georgia motel with his mother Thursday, six hours after being convicted and sentenced in absentia to 45 years in prison, authorities said.

Stevan Russell Senter, 22, was arrested in a parking lot of a Lowndes County Motel 6 at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said. Members of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit made the arrest without incident, Strickland said. He said Senter had been traveling with his mother, and possible charges are pending against her. Her name was not immediately available.

Early Wednesday, Senter cut off an electronic ankle monitor and left his aunt’s home before the third day of his trial in Hall County Superior Court, authorities said. The trial went on without Senter, who had been free on a $50,000 bond.

On Thursday, a jury deliberated for about three hours before finding Senter guilty of two counts of aggravated child molestation and three counts of child molestation involving two victims. He was acquitted of rape.

Judge Kathlene Gosselin denied a defense request to delay sentencing until Senter could be located by authorities and brought back to court.

Without Senter in court to hear the sentence, Gosselin sentenced him to life, with the first 45 years to be served in prison and the remainder on probation.

Authorities say Senter cut off his ankle monitor shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday, discarding it behind the Jet Wright Road home he shared with his aunt. He left a suicide note behind indicating he wanted to drown himself in Lake Lanier, authorities said. The Hall County Sheriff’s dive team, tracking dogs and a Georgia State Patrol helicopter searched the area without success.

Senter, a former Army soldier and fast-food cook, did not have a car and there were no cars missing from the area. Strickland declined to say what information led authorities to locate Senter in Lowndes County.

Lawyers made closing arguments in the case Wednesday without mentioning the fact that the defendant was not in the courtroom.
Jurors were instructed to not consider his absence in their deliberations.

The jury found Senter guilty of molesting two teenage girls he knew in a South Hall home in December 2007.

Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Sykes said the victims and their families were “happy with the verdict and very happy with the sentence.”

Hall County Sheriff’s officials were traveling to Lowndes County on Thursday night to pick Senter up and bring him back to Hall County.