‘He is a nightmare:’ Memphis man sentenced to 371 years on rape charges

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A judge gave a Memphis man a sentence of 371 years Monday after he terrorized and raped women and children for decades.

William Gossett refused to be at his own sentencing. Instead, he chose to sit on the other side of a wall and ignore his victims.

He pleaded guilty in September to five counts of aggravated rape, 11 counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, and one count each of identity theft, attempted aggravated rape, theft of property over $1,000, and theft of property under $500.

Prosecutors say the crimes spanned 15 victims in a dozen separate incidents.

Between 2013 and 2016, he broke into multiple homes across the city, from Cordova to Raleigh to southeast Memphis, often gaining access through sliding glass doors or windows.

He'd carry a knife or gun, and most of the time, he would terrorize and rape the women living there. In two cases, women were raped with their babies just feet away.

"He has a horrible record. He is a nightmare," Judge Lee Coffee said. "He is a one-person crime wave that terrorized this community for four years."

The now-37-year-old also raped a 16-year-old girl in December 2016 at her family's home.

The prosecutor read a letter she wrote to the court, saying she quit school for a month and has been in fear ever since.

"I still remember the fear I felt when he told me to turn around or else he's stab me, or the fear I had for crying out for help in fear he'd hurt me or my family," she wrote.

Investigators tried to connect Gossett to the crimes for years. In May 2016, they got a warrant to search his Southaven home and found items belonging to each one of his victims.

Prosecutors called them his trophies. They included things like purses, credit cards, library cards, birth certificates and checks.

They also found more of his victim's items at pawn shops.

Prosecutors also told the judge about Gossett's juvenile record, which included raping an 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl on Christmas day in 1998.

He gave the youngest a sexually transmitted disease. She later became sick.

A mental health exam was done then, which ruled he'd likely commit more violent crimes. Gossett's attorney and his family used that as a defense.

"When he was a child, he was molested," said his sister Tarlisha Carey. "They didn't get him the help he needed. The state failed him."

Ultimately, Judge Coffee sided with the victims.

Prosecutors said Gossett likely has more victims out there, but those women couldn't be found or chose not to cooperate because they wanted to move on with their lives.

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