ROCKDALE — Thomas Bond “can’t fathom a rationale that says a county can’t seek the death penalty” because of how much it costs, he told the Telegram.
Bond is the uncle of 20-month-old Patricia Ann Rader — Annie — the little girl allegedly violently murdered by Shawn Vincent Boniello, 30, of Albuquerque, N.M.
Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey told the Telegram on Wednesday he won’t seek the death penalty but would instead pursue life in prison without parole. One reason he mentioned for his decision was the prohibitive cost to counties. Torrey said a death penalty case could cost a county $1 million, and Milam County will probably have a $1 million budget deficit in 2019.
Bond said he doesn’t care how long it takes, but he won’t stop until someone does the right thing and gives Boniello “the ultimate penalty” for his niece’s awful death.
Bond said he talked to Torrey by phone late Thursday afternoon and said Torrey mentioned he might change his mind — that he “wasn’t saying ‘no’ right now.”
“I told him that his initial decision ‘wouldn’t fly with the family or voters,’” Bond said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
Coryell County case
The Texas Attorney General’s Office previously planned to assist Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd with a capital murder case in which the death penalty was sought.
The charge against Chet Michael Shelton — eventually convicted in the January 2016 death of 2-year-old Makai Brooks Lamar — was based on the facts that Makai died of blunt force trauma from numerous injuries to his head and internal organs. Makai also was sodomized.
Utilizing the services of a regional public defender from the attorney general’s office would not cost Coryell County taxpayers anything, Boyd previously told the Telegram.
However, Shelton pleaded guilty in June to capital murder for the rape and murder of Makai in exchange for a lifetime in prison without parole. He waived any appeals or possibility of being released from prison.
According to Boyd, Makai’s family worked with his office in reaching that decision because they sought both justice and closure.
Torrey told the Telegram on Wednesday in an email, “I’ll not seek the death penalty but life without parole.”
According to Bond, Torrey told him part of the decision of whether or not to ask for the death penalty if convicted is if that person has a prior record and if he or she would be a danger to society again.
The Telegram reached out Friday to Torrey to ask if he would consider a change from life without parole to the death penalty if Boniello is convicted.
“I will not make a final decision until I have all the facts and sit down with the family to discuss the situation with them,” Torrey said.
Torrey told the Telegram on Wednesday that, “Although the courts have held that the facts of the case itself can sustain a death verdict, typically you need an extensive and violent criminal history to sustain a finding of future dangerousness that is needed to affirm a death sentence on appeal.
“My impression at this point is that the future dangerous finding would be difficult to prove and/or sustain on appeal,” Torrey said.
Torrey didn’t respond to a Telegram inquiry of whether Milam County would qualify for the kind of assistance Coryell County was to get in the Shelton capital murder case.
Boniello, who reportedly is transitioning from a man to a woman, allegedly punched, slapped, shook and squeezed Annie until she didn’t move, a probable cause affidavit said.\
She was charged Tuesday with capital murder by “punching, shaking and picking up the victim and wrapping her arms around her and squeezing the victim till she stopped moving” and abandoning/endangering a child by criminal negligence.
Boniello was interviewed Tuesday and detailed what happened — after her rights were explained and she waived them. She said she was angry and frustrated when, at last, she squeezed the girl until she “felt her bones begin to pop and crush,” the affidavit said. The squeeze lasted for about three minutes before Boniello let the child go, Boniello reportedly told officers.
Bond wondered aloud how any human being could do that.
“She (Annie) smiled all the time,” he said. “All she wanted was to be loved.”
Boniello moved to Rockdale from New Mexico after Annie’s grandfather met her on the internet. Bond tried to look up the name she gave them, but he couldn’t find any information about her anywhere, he said.
“I just knew something wasn’t right,” he said.
It wasn’t until Annie was dead that Bond found out Boniello’s real name and that Boniello wasn’t a woman. Bond said it “blew his mind,” and no one in the family but Annie’s grandfather knew she was not a woman.
However, Bond doesn’t want anyone to focus on Boniello’s sex. The real issue, he said, is that Torrey and his office need to pursue the death penalty instead of life in prison without parole.
“There is nothing in this world that could have prepared us for something like this,” Rachel Bond, Annie’s aunt, wrote. “This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude in that this sweet little girl that brought so much love and joy to all of those around her is no longer here.
“God has the brightest of angels in his midst.”
Annie, their little angel, will be memorialized Monday in Rockdale.
A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Phillips & Luckey Funeral Home, followed by burial in Oak Lawn Cemetery in Rockdale.