Woman indicted for murder in boyfriend’s death

Tonya Ruth Barnett 40 years of age of Texarkana, Texas
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A Texarkana, Texas, woman who claimed self-defense in the May shooting death of her boyfriend was indicted Friday for murder by a Bowie County grand jury.

Tonya Ruth Barnett, 40, called police at 5:29 a.m. May 24 and reported to dispatchers that she’d shot someone who had been beating her, according to a probable cause affidavit. When deputies with the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office arrived, they found Cecil Ellis Jr., 35, deceased on the floor of a bedroom in Barnett’s home on Parkway Lane.

Barnett allegedly claimed that Ellis was angry because she had broken up with him the day before. She reported that Ellis was banging on her door at about 5:20 a.m. Barnett allegedly said she let Ellis in and that the two began fighting over her phone. Barnett claimed that Ellis wanted to look through her phone and choked her until she passed out.

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When she came to, Barnett claims she grabbed a handgun from her nightstand and ordered Ellis to leave. Barnett told investigators the gun “went off and shot Ellis in the head,” while the two were struggling over the phone.

Barnett was not arrested until a second interview with investigators June 5. She was called back for questioning after investigators learned from the medical examiner’s office that Ellis died of a gunshot wound to hte back of his head.

“The medical examiner’s office advised that a projectile had been recovered from the eyebrow area of Mr. Ellis’ head. They advised that the bullet path was from back to front,” the affidavit states.

When confronted with the physical evidence, Barnett allegedly changed her story. Barnett allegedly told investigators in June that she pointed the gun at Ellis and pulled the trigger. She allegedly claimed that she had not handled the gun in some time and did not know a bullet was chambered. Barnett claimed she was trying to scare Ellis.

In June, investigators charged Barnett with manslaughter. A grand jury indicted her Friday for the more serious charge of murder. If found guilty, she faces five to 99 years or life in prison. Barnett is currently free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond, according to court records. A date for her to appear for arraignment has not been scheduled.

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