Grand jury indicts man for murder in shooting death of Texas girl during ATM robbery

Apr 24, 2024, 9:55 AM

HOUSTON (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022 has been indicted for murder in her death.

Tuesday’s indictment against Tony Earls comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Arlene Alvarez.

“We have a duty to see that justice is done, and that meant asking a new grand jury to look at new evidence,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Wednesday in a statement. “We have done everything possible to figure out exactly what happened that day to ensure that we get justice.”

Court records did not list a current attorney for Earls, who was not in custody as of early Wednesday afternoon. Earls’ previous attorneys had said their client was not a “monster” but a family man who was devastated by Arlene’s death. They said Earls was not reckless in his actions and was only protecting his family.

Earls and his wife were at an ATM to withdraw money Feb. 14, 2022, when an unidentified robber pulled a gun on them and fled after taking $20, along with a check and their car keys, according to prosecutors.

Earls’ attorneys said after their client got out of his car, the robber fired and Earls fired back in self-defense. Investigators say Earls fired at a truck thinking the robbery suspect had possibly climbed into it.

But the vehicle was actually carrying Arlene and her family as they went to the ATM to make a deposit before heading to a late dinner at a pizzeria. The girl was shot in the head and later died at a hospital.

Earls was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, serious bodily injury. But a grand jury in July 2022 declined to indict him on that charge or several others, including manslaughter and murder. The man who robbed Earls has never been caught.

Ogg said that earlier this year she assigned a special prosecutor, Warren Diepraam, to re-examine the case. Diepraam said an FBI firearms expert was brought in to examine evidence in the case.

“The expert’s opinion is that Mr. Earls saw the robber run past the vehicle with Arlene Alvarez inside — the vehicle did not do anything to give Mr. Earls a justification to shoot into the passing vehicle,” Diepraam said in a statement. “Mr. Earls had a clear line of sight, and obviously Mr. Alvarez did not stop and say to the robber, ‘Get in’ or anything like that.”

If convicted, Earls could be sentenced to up to life in prison.


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