CAMERON — On the same day of the funeral for a 20-month-old girl who was brutally killed Dec. 3, Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey reversed earlier statements he made about not seeking the death penalty in the case.
Patricia Ann Rader — known to those who loved her as Annie — was allegedly killed by 30-year-old Shawn Vincent Boniello, who is charged with capital murder.
“Cost is not a determining factor for this office whether to proceed with a death penalty trial,” Torrey said Monday.
Last week, Torrey told the Telegram that his office would not seek the death penalty because legal costs involved in a death penalty case would give Milam County a $1 million deficit in 2019. He cited the bad financial shape of Milam County and the difficulty of getting a unanimous jury vote for the death penalty.
Thomas Bond, Annie’s uncle, told the Telegram that the family supports the death penalty against Boniello.
“I told him (Torrey) that his initial decision ‘wouldn’t fly with the family or voters,’” Bond said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
In a news release Monday, Torrey said a decision won’t be made until his office's investigation is complete.
“The investigation into this horrible tragedy is still ongoing, and our office has yet to see a report or any of the evidence against the defendant,” Torrey said in the release. “As such, no decision has been made on what punishment our office will seek at trial.”
Torrey plans to review the case after the final reports and evidence are received from the Rockdale Police Department.
Boniello allegedly punched, slapped, shook and squeezed Annie until she didn’t move, a probable cause affidavit said.
He was charged last week by the Rockdale Police Department with capital murder of a child under the age of 10 by “punching, shaking and picking up the victim and wrapping her arms around her and squeezing the victim until she stopped moving” and abandoning/endangering a child by criminal negligence.
Boniello was interviewed by police and told in more detail what happened — after his rights were explained and he waived them. He said he was angry and frustrated when he squeezed the girl until he “felt her bones begin to pop and crush,” the affidavit said.
The squeeze lasted for about three minutes before Boniello let the child go, he told officers.
Torrey, in an email response to the Telegram after Annie’s death, said he wouldn’t seek the death penalty if Boniello was convicted. Instead, he would ask for life without the possibility of parole.
The reasons he gave for that decision were the bad financial shape of Milam County in 2019 and the difficulty of getting a unanimous jury vote for the death penalty.
“Rule of thumb is that a DP (death penalty) case will cost the county about $1 million. Milam County anticipates, I’m told, a million dollar shortfall for 2019,” Torrey wrote the Telegram Wednesday.
Torrey said the courts have held that a case’s facts can support a death verdict. However, he said most of the time an extensive and violent criminal history is needed to support a finding of “future dangerousness” and to affirm it 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 Friday.
Family’s point of view
The Bonds — Rachel and Thomas — both talked to the Telegram Monday before and after the funeral about Annie’s death and Torrey’s statements.
When they were told Torrey reversed his earlier statements, Rachel Bond said, “Good.”
Thomas Bond said he told Torrey last week in a phone conversation that Milam County would seek capital murder charges and the death penalty if a police officer was killed. He said he told Torrey there shouldn’t be any difference in how an officer’s death and the death of his niece should be addressed.
“Why should a police officer’s life be more valuable than Annie’s — especially considering how she died,” Bond said he asked Torrey.