LEVELLAND, Texas — A Levelland man was sentenced Thursday to more than 30 years in prison after kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from a birthday party in August 2020.

Damien Dre Gonzales, 27, pleaded guilty in February to the kidnapping. Gonzales also admitted in plea papers that he abducted the girl to engage in illicit sexual intercourse.

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Read the full news release from The United States Department of Justice below:

A west Texas man was sentenced today to 365 months in in federal prison for abducting a 9-year-old girl from a birthday party, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.

Damien Dre Gonzales, 27, of Levelland, Texas pleaded guilty in February to one count of kidnapping. He was sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix.

According to plea papers, Mr. Gonzales admitted to abducting a 9-year old girl at a birthday party in Levelland, Texas to engage in illicit sexual intercourse.

During the birthday party in August 2020, a woman began choking and most of the attendees went to assist with her sudden health emergency. While the minor’s father was attending to the woman, Mr. Gonzales lured the 9-year-old away by asking for her help carrying alcohol to his vehicle. Mr. Gonzales encouraged the girl to get inside the vehicle and then he drove away.

The girl’s disappearance set off a frantic search by her family and those at the birthday party. They notified law enforcement and replayed home surveillance footage that showed the 9-year-old leaving with Mr. Gonzales.

About that same time, the Levelland Police Department received a report of a vehicle parked in the middle of the street several miles from the location of the birthday party. Mr. Gonzales hit a residential mailbox and stopped in the road. While in the car, Mr. Gonzales sexually assaulted the girl by removing her clothes and touching her.

When law enforcement arrived on the scene to investigate the parked car, they discovered the girl inside. Officers noticed that Mr. Gonzales’ jeans were unzipped, and his belt was unbuckled. Inside Mr. Gonzales’ car was an open box of condoms sitting in the passenger seat and one condom was missing from the box.

The victim was immediately reunited with her parents and provided psychological and medical support.

The FBI Lubbock Resident Agency, Levelland Police Department, and Hockley County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Callie Woolam prosecuted the case.