Arlene Alvarez shooting death: Tony Earls Jr. indicted for murder

February 14, 2022 - an ATM stick-up in Gulfgate goes from bad to much worse when robbery victim Tony Earls Jr. fires multiple shots from his handgun at what he mistakenly believed was a fleeing suspect entering a get-away-vehicle.

Instead, his "target" proved to be the innocent Alvarez family, which suffered irreparable damage.

Arlene Alvarez (left); Tony Earls (right)

"It's completely negligent. It's completely reckless, and the truth is, we all need to be responsible for our actions and this family lost a 9-year-old little girl," said April Aguirre, Alvarez's Aunt.

And yet five months after the tragedy, a Harris County grand jury saw it differently, clearing Earls of wrongdoing - an outcome the Alvarez family refused to accept.

"Whether he wants to own that bullet or not, he has to own it, because this family is not going to sit back and have that empty chair at the dining table every single day and give up, you can't," said Aguirre.

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In the nearly two years since, new evidence uncovered by an FBI firearms expert, compelled prosecutors to take the extraordinary step of "re-presenting" the case.

"We have a duty to see that justice is done, and that meant asking a new grand jury to look at new evidence," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. "We have done everything possible to figure out exactly what happened that day to ensure that we get justice."

"The expert’s opinion is that Mr. Earls saw the robber run past the vehicle with Arlene Alvarez inside — the vehicle did not do anything to give Mr. Earls a justification to shoot into the passing vehicle," special prosecutor Warren Diepraam, who was assigned by Ogg to re-examine the case, said. "Mr. Earls had a clear line of sight, and obviously Mr. Alvarez did not stop and say to the robber, ‘Get in’ or anything like that."

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FOX 26 Legal Analyst Chris Tritico says it's likely the legal concept of "transferred intent" played a role in gaining the murder indictment.

"So if your intent was to shoot and kill this person, but you killed somebody else, that intent goes straight over to the other person, and you still get held responsible for what you did," said Tritico.

For Arlene's grieving Aunt April, it amounts to accountability delayed, but potentially, not denied.

"It is a bittersweet moment because we don't get Arlene back. The family doesn't get closure in that sense. but we know the person who committed this act is going to face justice," said Aguirre.

While supportive of the Alvarez family gaining justice, Tritico is fearful of local prosecutors returning to different grand juries with the same case.

"If this trend continues, every time the DA gets a no-bill on a case, and they are not happy with it, they'll just keep going back, keep going back until they get a grand jury that does what they want them to do," said Tritico.

Authorities said Earls is currently not in custody. If you know where Earls is, contact your local law enforcement agency.