Woman indicted in boyfriend’s death
Barnett, 40, initially claimed she killed Ellis in self-defense
A Bowie County grand jury issued an indictment Friday for a Texarkana woman who initially claimed she shot and killed her boyfriend in self-defense. Tonya Ruth Barnett, 40, was not immediately arrested in the May 24 death of Cecil Ellis Jr., 35, of Magnolia, Ark.
According to earlier reports, investigators initially believed Barnett’s claim of self-defense but that changed as the investigation continued, according to a probable cause affidavit used to create the following account.
Barnett called 911 about 5:30 a.m. and claimed she’d shot someone who had been beating her at her home in the 100 block of Parkway Lane in Texarkana, Texas. When deputies with the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office arrived, they were met by a “hysterical female.”
Ellis was dead, a large pool of blood encircling his head, and his body was sent to Dallas for an autopsy.
That day, Barnett told BCSO Investigator Scott Sartor that she had ended her relationship with Ellis the day before he showed up at 5:20 a.m., banging on windows and her front door.
Barnett claimed that, after she let Ellis in the house, he attacked her and that the two fought over her cell phone. Barnett allegedly told investigators Ellis choked her until she temporarily blacked out. Barnett allegedly said that she grabbed a .40 caliber handgun from her nightstand after regaining consciousness and that she accidentally shot Ellis in the head as the two struggled over the phone.
Barnett was reinterviewed by Sartor after he learned from the medical examiner’s office that Ellis died of a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
“The medical examiner’s office advised that a projectile had been recovered from the eyebrow area of Mr. Ellis’ head,” the affidavit states. “They advised that the bullet path was from back to front.”
Barnett allegedly admitted in the second interview that she pointed the handgun at Ellis and pulled the trigger. Barnett allegedly claimed that she thought the gun did not have a bullet in the chamber and intended only to scare Ellis and get him to leave. Ellis was charged with manslaughter in June at the time of her arrest.
She is now facing a murder indictment. If convicted, Barnett faces five to 99 years or life in prison. She is currently free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond. The case is assigned to 5th District Judge Bill Miller.