Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Arraignment Set for Man Accused of Slaying Ex-Girlfriend

By Te-Erika Patterson

An April 26th arraignment date is scheduled for Timothy Shepherd, the man accused of strangling his former girlfriend, mutilating her body and burning it on two barbecue grills on the patio of his apartment.

Shepherd’s bond has been set at $250,000 but his attorney, Chip Lewis, advised that his life might be in danger if he made his bond.

“The investigation is still underway,” District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said. “We are still collecting evidence and we will present it to the grand jury sometime hopefully before the arraignment date.”

The prosecutor assigned to the Shepherd case in the 183rd District Court, Marie Primm said, “I look forward to presenting the evidence and I am confident in prosecuting this case.”

Tynesha Stewart, a 19-year-old Texas A&M University freshman, was home on spring break when she disappeared after leaving her mother’s apartment with Shepherd on March 15.

According to Stewart’s friends, she ended the relationship with Shepherd, a former pizza delivery driver, earlier this year.

Authorities allege that the 27-year-old Shepherd confessed to strangling Stewart because he was angry that she had become involved in a relationship with another man. In the police report Shepherd confessed to burning the body, but the absence of physical evidence supporting this confession has caused community members to demand a more involved investigation.

A community protest in the form of a press conference, organized by members of the Houston Area Urban League as well as members of the NAACP demanded that the Harris County Sheriff’s department conduct a more thorough investigation into the case.

“The protest was a call for a much more comprehensive assessment of what happened to Tynesha,” said Sylvia Brooks, CEO of the Houston Area Urban League. “We do not feel that a thorough enough investigation of the whole case has been done by the fire department that went into the guy’s house or by the Sheriff’s Department.

“They are concerned that the Sheriff asked for money to search the landfill and is not using it. Some members of our group have spoke with the family and the family indicated that they did want them to search for her body,” Brooks asserted.

Despite claims that the complete destruction of human remains requires extremely high temperatures that would be difficult to reach with a home patio grill, Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas remained firm in his insistence that there are no remnants of Stewart’s body.

“Sheriff Thomas said there are no remains to be found and any search would be fruitless,” stated John Martin, Lieutenant Public Information Officer for the Harris County sheriff’s office. “Our investigators continue to strengthen their case. They’ve been out to the apartment searching for any forensic evidence. It remains to be seen how the case will proceed.”

In response to the protest, Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas issued a statement that read, “Never in my 38 years of law enforcement career have I been subjected to such harsh and unnecessary criticism, and based on the information being relayed to the public, the criticism was warranted. My decision was based on facts that were known to investigators or still being developed by investigators, and yet, facts that I could not discuss outside of law enforcement without compromising the investigation.

“The public in general, and Tynesha Stewart’s family in particular, deserve the best possible criminal investigation that the Harris County sheriff’s office can conduct,” the statement continued. “And I refuse to compromise this, or any investigation regardless of the level of scrutiny or criticism this department is facing at the moment.”

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