Woman in­dicted in boyfriend’s death

Bar­nett, 40, ini­tially claimed she killed El­lis in self-de­fense

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn LaRowe

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.


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