Mid-South man deemed “poster child for serial rapists” sentenced to 371 years in prison

Crime

(SHELBY COUNTY D.A. NEWS RELEASE) – A 37-year-old man a judge called “a poster child for serial rapists” was sentenced Monday to 371 years in prison for five aggravated rapes and 21 other felony offenses in a dozen break-ins across the city, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.

When investigators arrested defendant William L. Gossett in 2016, numerous items belonging to his victims were found in his home in Southaven and in pawn shops.

In September of this year, Gossett pled guilty 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.

One of his earliest contacts with the criminal justice system was in 1998 in Juvenile Court where he was found responsible for raping children, ages 5 and 8.

Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee said Monday Gossett never again deserves to walk the streets as a free man. Gossett, who has been in custody since his arrest in 2016, refused to attend his sentencing hearing.

The cases included 15 victims from a dozen separate incidents between July 4, 2012, and April 10, 2016, most of them at apartment units across the city from southeast Memphis to Cordova to Raleigh. He often gained entry through sliding glass doors or windows, and usually was armed with a gun or a knife.

In a statement read to the court, one rape victim who was 16 at the time Gossett assaulted her in 2012 said she had nightmares, had to quit school for a month, underwent counseling, and has been “scarred for life” by the incident. 

A task force of investigators from the DA’s Special Victims Unit and the Memphis Police Department Sex Crimes Unit linked Gossett to the crimes through DNA, fingerprints, motor vehicle records and other evidence. They also developed other similar cases against Gossett, but victims either could not be located or they did not want participate in taking the cases to court.

Soon after Gossett’s arrest in 2016, the investigators obtained a search warrant for his residence in Southaven, Miss., and found items belonging to his victims, including purses, credit cards, library cards, birth certificates, car keys, mail, jewelry, personal checks and wallets. Cell phones and other items taken from his victims were recovered at pawn shops.  

The case was handled by Asst. Dist. Attys. Dru Carpenter and Devon Dennis of the DA’s Special Victims Unit which prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of child victims; rape and aggravated rape of adult victims, and abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.  

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