A Texas family continues to grieve as a jury fails to indict the man that accidentally shot their daughter while shooting at a robber who had just stuck up, him and his wife. The courts believe the man who robbed the couple should be held criminally responsible for the child’s death.
On Tuesday, July 19, a Harris County grand jury ruled that Tony Earls will not be indicted on charges for the death of 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez. While Earls was found not responsible for the fourth grader’s death, the courts have urged the 41-year-old to support the family in finding the man who was the catalyst for this awful chain of events: his robber, according to ABC 13.
A $30,000 reward has been offered to anyone who helps identify the suspect. The Crime Stoppers division in Harris County stated through a representative, “Today is an extremely difficult day. Arlene never asked to be put in this situation. Today, she is everyone’s daughter.”
But every day for the last five months, Alvarez’s mourning family, according to KWTX, have lived without their actual daughter, saying through a spokesperson, “Arlene was murdered and we will never get her back.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, “The grand jury, a random group of ordinary people in Harris County who answered their jury summons, heard the evidence in this case as presented by our prosecutors, heard all of the possible charges – from murder to manslaughter to aggravated assault to criminally negligent homicide. That grand jury also heard possible defenses.”
Ogg explained that deadly force, as in the Earls-Alvarez case, can be excused in circumstances where the perpetrator has operated in a case of defense of one’s property.
An investigation determined that on Monday, Feb. 14, Earls and his wife were robbed at a Chase Bank ATM in the Gulfgate district of Houston as they were heading to a late dinner at a pizzeria.
Police reported that Earls chased the robber and shot at a pickup truck that he thought the suspect was getting into. He was mistaken. The vehicle belonged to the Alvarez family.
Álvarez was sitting in the back of her family’s vehicle watching a movie.
The bullet from Earls’ firearm struck the truck and fatally injured the young girl when it struck her in the head. According to the Independent, the little girl did not hear her mother’s scream to duck because she was wearing headphones. As a result, the man was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.
Ogg informed the public, “Every felony charge goes to a grand jury, and today, a grand jury ‘no-billed’ Tony Earls.”
Now with the decision, Earls will no longer face charges in Alvarez’s slaying and his case cannot be presented again.
The family is devastated by the “No-Bill” ruling. The young girl’s aunt described their overall feeling as being “disappointed.”
April Aguirre, Arlene’s aunt, KHOU 11 reports, “To say that we’re disappointed wouldn’t be enough. We feel defeated because they so quickly came to a decision we don’t agree with.”
The girl’s mother, Gwen Alvarez, also commented on the decision, “I go back to that day every night and I know what happened.”
“Maybe Earls was not accountable for his actions, but he knows with what intentions he did,” she continued. “With what intentions he shot at our vehicle because self-defense is not more than nine shots. He knew what he was doing, and he knew he was going to intentionally kill whoever was in that vehicle.”
Earls released a statement via his attorney about the grand jury’s verdict.
“We are relieved that, despite the emotion and tough decisions that had to be made in dealing with this case, justice was served for Mr. Earls,” the statement said. “We do not envy the difficult task of the grand jury, but we certainly appreciate their careful deliberation.”
The family says someone should be held accountable.
Deyonna Hines, Earls’ wife, offered her alliance during this time, saying “We understand and support the Alvarez family in their journey for justice.”
A description of the man is as follows: medium to dark skin male; possibly African-American, tall with a medium to heavyset build.
At the time of the robbery, he was wearing gloves and a mask covered his face partially. Ogg said should the suspect be apprehended he will be charged with felony murder and possibly face life in prison.
“Our hearts go out to the Alvarez family because Arlene’s death is a tragedy that is unimaginable,” Ogg said. “We are focusing all of our efforts on finding the suspect who set this chain of events in motion and bringing him to justice.”
$25,000 of the $30,000 of the reward money was donated by Houston businessman Tilman Fertitta.