A Garland man who beat his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend with a toilet tank lid was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday, a sentence that includes the possibility of parole, which is not the outcome prosecutors had pursued.
Braylon Dominique Ellis, 27, was charged with capital murder in the death of Tommy Brown, 51, of Fort Worth. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, so if Ellis had been convicted on that charge, the sentence would automatically have been life without the possibility of parole.
After deliberating for two days, the jury convicted Ellis of murder, not capital murder.
Ellis asked the judge, not the jury, to sentence him. Visiting state District Judge Roger Towery presided over the trial last week. State district Judge Wayne Salvant, who returned to his courtroom Tuesday, gave Ellis a life sentence on Wednesday.
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Eunice Rodriguez, 40, of Anthony, Ellis’ co-defendant, was also charged with capital murder. Her trial date has not been set.
Brown’s sister found his body on Sept. 7, 2013, in his home in the 2400 block of Rattikin Road in east Fort Worth. She told police she found Brown facedown in a hall with his hands tied behind his back and his head covered by a white bag. Blood stained the hall walls outside the bathroom, and two sets of bloody shoe prints were on the kitchen floor.
Brown’s television, wallet and Toyota pickup were missing.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled that Brown had been dead for two days and that the cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.
In July, Brown had filed a complaint with Fort Worth police, accusing Rodriguez of stealing his wallet. He told police that when he called Rodriguez to ask her about it, she threatened to send a male friend over to his house to beat him up and also talked about killing him. A man was laughing in the background during the phone call, Brown told police.
After Brown was found dead, investigators learned that his credit card was used Sept. 6 and 7 to buy gas, medications and other items at businesses stretching from Fort Worth to Mississippi.
The card was eventually declined at a business in Mississippi after its credit limit was exceeded, an arrest warrant affidavit states. Surveillance video obtained from some of the businesses show a woman and man matching the descriptions of Rodriguez and Ellis buying items.
‘Head over heels in love’
Tarrant County prosecutors William Vassar and Vincent Giardino presented evidence that on Sept. 5, Ellis ambushed Brown inside his house with the toilet tank lid.
“If I come out of your bathroom and I have a heavy piece of ceramic in my hands and I’m holding it over my head and I bring it down on your head, not once, not twice, but several times, am I trying to kill you?” Vassar asked jurors in his closing statement.
Defense attorney Tim Moore said Ellis was infatuated with Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a convicted felon with an extensive record who persuaded Ellis to participate in robbing Brown, her former boyfriend, Moore said.
He said Ellis and Rodriguez met on a bus trip and “fell head over heels in love.”
“If they had not met on that Greyhound bus, this probably would never have happened,” Moore said.
During his closing statement on Thursday, Moore argued that the crime was about Ellis’ prior intent.
Ellis intended to beat Brown and take his money and that was all, Moore said.
“If you want to kill a guy, you take a gun, or a knife or a weapon,” Moore said. “You don’t get into a fistfight. And you certainly don’t tie him up while [he is] still squirming around.”
Towery gave the jury alternatives to a capital murder conviction, including robbery, aggravated assault and murder.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.