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No Indictment for Robbery Victim Who Allegedly Killed 9-Year-Old Girl by Mistake


Tony D. Earls

Grand jurors declined to indict a robbery victim accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl by mistake.

With no more homicide case against Tony E. Earls, 41, prosecutors in Houston, Texas, are shifting their focus toward his intended target — the man who robbed him and his wife. If captured, this individual will face felony murder charges for young Arlene Alvarez’s death, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a press conference on Tuesday.

The 9-year-old’s mother bitterly remarked on the grand jury result.

“Self-defense is not more than nine shots,” Gwen Alvarez said. “He knew what he was doing, and he knew he was going to intentionally kill whoever was in that vehicle.”

Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering up to a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the original robbery suspect.

As previously reported, Arelene was in a pickup truck with her parents and two younger brothers the night of Feb. 14. They were going to a pizza place for a Valentine’s Day dinner, her father Armando Alvarez said, according to KHOU.

It was at that time, however, that Earls and his wife went to a Chase Bank.

They were there to deposit cash and a check, authorities said in the press conference on Tuesday. With the wife in the driver’s seat, they approached a drive-thru ATM. An unidentified man, who was partially masked and wearing gloves, ran up and put a gun in the wife’s face, authorities said. He demanded money, a wallet, and the car key. The couple at first complied with the robber, but as the robber ran away, Earls stepped out. He said he believed he heard gunshots and thought he was being shot at. So he shot at the robber and ended up striking the Alvarez truck driving by, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Knecht said.

“To say that we’re disappointed wouldn’t be enough,” Alrene’s aunt April Aguirre said in the press conference, later adding, “We feel defeated, because they so quickly came to a decision that we don’t agree with.”

“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,” DA Ogg said. “That grand jury also heard possible defenses. Mistake of fact, defense of third person, and protection of property at night. In all these instances, deadly force can be excused under the law. We do not excuse it.”

“We would first like to extend our condolences to the Alvarez family once more,” Earls’ attorneys Brennen Dunn and Myrecia Donaldson said in a statement obtained by KTRK. “There is no greater loss than that of a loved one, and we continue to grieve for the loss of such a beautiful soul. While that life weighs heavy on us, we are happy with the grand jury’s finding in this case. Their decision reflects our position since the onset of this case. The worlds of two different families were clashing at once, from different perspectives. Mr. Earls did what we believe anyone in that situation would have done.”

“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. We do not envy the difficult task of the grand jury, but we certainly appreciate their careful deliberation. We stand in support of the Alvarez family as justice continues to be sought for Arlene Alvarez,” the lawyers continued. “Mr. Earls is prepared to assist authorities however he can, to bring the person responsible to justice. We also hope that the DA’s office will not be so hasty in the future to charge the best available person, but rather, the most appropriate one.”

That’s not how the Alvarez family sees it. Even so, they also blame the robber for all of this — not just Earls. Authorities suggest the robber has done something like this before, based on his behavior, including staking out the bank for 20 minutes before the incident. Harris County Investigator Armando Tamez described the suspect as a medium to dark skinned man, possibly African American, tall and with a medium to heavy set build.

“Arlene was murdered, and we will never get her back,” Aguirre said. “I hope that the person that initiated the robbery understands everything that they took from this family. Arlene will forever be frozen in time as a fourth grader. She will forever be 9.”

[Booking photo via Houston Police Department]

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