The grandmother of a 9-year-old Dallas girl slain in 2019 said she wants the public focused on finding the accused killer, who authorities say tampered with his ankle monitor and fled.
“We need him to be found,” Tonya Elder told The Dallas Morning News in an interview Tuesday. “We’re hanging in there, we’re handling it and praying that officials find him.”
Tyrese Simmons’ trial in the slaying of Brandoniya Bennett was scheduled for this week. He has been on the lam since May 28. At a hearing Monday, Dallas County prosecutors, defense lawyers and state District Judge Hector Garza agreed a new trial date will be set once Simmons is arrested. The News first reported last week that Simmons is on the run.
A message posted Friday on a Facebook account appearing to belong to Simmons said “the choice I have made was not a sign of guilt.” The message said he didn’t believe he’d get a fair trial.
“I will not willingly allow them to assassinate my character any longer by painting a picture that I’m a rapper who shot into the wrong home or that rap lyrics make me a shooter … without the right counsel who is willing to fight my case,” the post read.
“I am doing this to bring awareness to my case in hopes that it opens eyes to injustice in the system and lack of investigation.”
Simmons is accused of firing the fatal shot into Brandoniya’s Old East Dallas home Aug. 14, 2019, as she was grabbing a snack. He faces up to life in prison if found guilty of murder.
Police said Simmons feuded with a fellow rapper who lived in the apartment complex in the 3500 block of Munger Avenue and fired into Brandoniya’s home after mistaking it for his rival’s. She was days away from starting the fourth grade.
Simmons was released on bond in December 2019 after Mike Snipes, a visiting judge, reduced his bail by half to $250,000. Snipes could not be reached for comment.
Simmons’ lead attorney declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Dallas police said the department is assisting in the search for Simmons but did not elaborate. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request for comment. No additional details about the investigation were available.
A second man, Davonte Benton, was convicted of murder last year and sentenced to 45 years in prison for his role. Benton was seen on surveillance footage running through the complex with Simmons.
The warrant for Simmons came just weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that criminalizes tampering with ankle monitors in Texas. The legislation, which goes into effect Sept. 1, was proposed after people with ankle monitors were accused in multiple Dallas homicides.
The highest-profile incident occurred Oct. 22 when police said a parolee with an ankle monitor opened fire at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, killing nurse Katie Annette Flowers and social worker Jacqueline Ama Pokuaa. Nestor Hernandez had permission to be at the hospital for the birth of his child but had previously cut off his ankle monitor after serving 80% of an eight-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery, officials said.
Two weeks after the hospital shooting, police said Zeric Jackson — another parolee with an ankle monitor — fatally shot 39-year-old Brian Dillard in Lake Highlands.
Just last month, a man out on bond with an ankle monitor was arrested in the slaying of 20-year-old Steven Mendoza in north Oak Cliff.
Dallas police Chief Eddie García said earlier this year that his department arrested 48 people in the last three years who were issued ankle monitors. Of those, 35 had their monitors, 11 removed them and two covered their monitors with foil.
Some high-profile cases in Dallas involved defendants who went on the run after tampering with their devices but weren’t accused of additional violence.
Last year, Bryce Jones was jailed after he cut off his ankle monitor while out on bond in a Dallas capital murder case and was missing for nearly two weeks. His defense attorney decried ankle monitors as ineffective, saying Jones cut off the monitor and fled after he was kicked out of the place he was staying and was afraid he’d be re-jailed because he was on house arrest.
On Christmas 2021, two women charged in the slaying of 23-year-old Marisela Botello Valdez removed their ankle monitors while out on bond, Dallas police said. Authorities arrested Lisa Jo Dykes and Nina Tamar Marano in Cambodia two months later.
Special contributors Sade Ajishegiri and Maya Gray contributed to this report.