Jury sentences woman to 25 years for murder

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: A woman who shot a man she once dated in the back of the head in May 2018 was sentenced Friday night to 25 years in prison.

Tonya Ruth Barnett, 42, claimed she shot Cecil “C.J.” Ellis Jr., 35, in self-defense. Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter argued that Barnett was angry at Ellis because he was seeing other women and because he planned to attend a family gathering with the mother of his children.

Carter argued in her closing arguments that Barnett could not have been struggling with Ellis over the firearm or a cell phone as she claimed because of the location and characteristics of the bullet wound. Ellis was shot in the back of his head and the bullet lodged in the front of his brain. The skin around the wound showed no signs of stipling which would be present if Ellis had been fewer than three feet away when she pulled the trigger.

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Carter argued that Barnett would have left cuts and scratches with her long fingernails if she had struggled with Ellis. A photo shown of Ellis showed he had no marks or cuts on his hands or face.

The jury deliberated more than three hours before finding Barnett guilty at about 6 p.m.

During the sentencing phase of the trial Friday evening, Barnett’s daughter became ill while testifying, leading 5th District Judge Bill Miller to put the jury in a recess.

The jury returned with a 25-year sentence at about 10 p.m. Friday night. Barnett, who had been free on bond, was taken into custody at the end of the trial.

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