Arlene Alvarez killed: Harris Co. grand jury declines to indict robbery victim who shot 9-year-old

Pooja Lodhia Image
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
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With a grand jury declining to charge the man whom police say fired the deadly shot, the search intensifies for the robber who set this chain of events in motion.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Arlene Alvarez's family on Tuesday found themselves nowhere close to true justice five months after the tragic chain of events that led to the 9-year-old girl's killing.

Earlier in the day, a Harris County grand jury declined to bring charges against 41-year-old Tony Earls, the man whom police say fired the shots that left the little girl dead on Feb. 15.

An investigation determined Earls and his wife were targeted by a robber near a Chase Bank ATM in the Gulfgate area. Earls then got out and shot at the fleeing suspect and a pickup truck that he thought the person was getting into, police said.

But the pickup was not the suspect's getaway car. Instead, Arlene and her family were inside.

Earls was arrested and charged with aggravated assault but with the grand jury's decision, his case cannot be presented again, according to 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 said, explaining that deadly force can be excused including under defense of property cases.

WATCH: Crime Stoppers news conference after grand jury's decision

Despite the explanation, Ogg reminded it's not up to prosecutors to decide on felony indictments.

"Every felony charge goes to a grand jury," Ogg said. "And today, a grand jury 'no-billed' Tony Earls."

So what's next in a case that remains without resolution? Ogg and the Alvarez family turned their attention to the robber whom the district attorney said set off the chain of events that left an innocent child dead. They were front and center during a news conference at Crime Stoppers of Houston on Tuesday afternoon, where a reward of up to $30,000 is now offered for the arrest of the so-called "killer."

"It is very hard to understand and accept (the grand jury's decision), and what I've asked them to do is to work with us to catch the killer," Ogg said, acknowledging the inability to disagree with the grand jury but the ability to move forward in the case.

"To say that we're disappointed wouldn't be enough," April Aguirre, Arlene's aunt, said. "We feel defeated, because they so quickly came to a decision that we don't agree with."

"I lived that moment, and I got back to that day every night. And I know what happened," Arlene's mother, Gwen Alvarez, said. "He gets to see the light. My daughter still doesn't. My daughter is still down, underground. I don't know if she is even good spiritually."

Arlene's loved ones are now pleading for somebody to turn in the robber.

"Arlene was murdered, and we will never get her back," Aguirre said. "Arlene will forever be frozen in time as a fourth grader. She will forever be 9."

"There are a lot of children dying. Our future is dying," Alvarez said. "What is wrong with all of you guys? Where is the humanity? Where is your heart? Where is your soul?"

Tony Earls' Defense Attorneys Brennen Dunn and Myrecia Donaldson provided the following statement:

"We would first like to extend our condolences to the Alvarez family once more. 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. 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."

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ORIGINAL REPORT: 9-year-old dies after being shot by robbery victim in SE Houston, authorities say

SEE ALSO: New video shows robbery moments before deadly shooting of 9-year-old girl in SE Houston

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