A 19-year-old Arlington man accused of taking part in a deadly home invasion in 2016 pleaded guilty Friday, leaving only rapper Tay-K 47 still facing trial in the case.
In a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Jalen Bell pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery in the home invasion in which Ethan Walker, 21, was fatally shot and Zachary Beloate was wounded.
In exchange, Bell received a 30-year prison sentence.
Following his plea, Bell appeared emotionless as Roberta Walker, Ethan Walker’s mother, and Pam Fernandez, Beloate’s aunt, addressed him.
Roberta Walker described the effect Bell’s actions have had on her son’s daughter.
“His daughter doesn’t have a father. She cries for him all the time. She calls somebody else Daddy because little girls have to have somebody to call Daddy,” Roberta Walker said.
Roberta Walker told Bell she wished she saw remorse in his face and understanding of what he’d done.
“You had the power to stop it at any time. You could have cut it off at the path,” she told him.
Because she didn’t see that remorse, Roberta Walker told Bell she wouldn’t wish him well in prison or encourage him to study while there — words that prompted Bell’s mother to rush from the courtroom, slamming open the door and sobbing loudly.
“I’m not going to encourage you to make something of your life, and that’s your fault,” Roberta Walker continued, ending with the promise that she’d see Bell again when he is up for parole.
Fernandez pointed out to Bell the hurt he’d caused everyone, even his own family. She said she hopes he finds God and finds his way back.
“You’ve caused so much pain for no reason at all,” Fernandez told Bell. “Zachary is going to be OK. His wounds have healed. His scars will never go away. He’ll bear those forever.”
The fate of the others
In all, seven people — three juveniles and four adults — had been charged in the home invasion in July 2016.
Latharian Merritt, the trigger man in Walker’s shooting, was found guilty of capital murder by a jury in May and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Sean Robinson pleaded guilty in August to murder in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence.
Two women — 22-year-old Ariana Bharrat and Megan Holt, 21 — both cut deals with prosecutors, agreeing to truthfully testify against their co-defendants in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated robbery.
Once their deals are finalized, Bharrat will receive a 25-year prison sentence and Holt, a 20-year sentence.
The sole female juvenile was the only one not certified to stand trial as an adult. She was found guilty by a jury of three delinquent conduct charges: capital murder and two aggravated robbery charges and sentenced in February to 20 years’ confinement.
Tay-K, whose real name is Taymor McIntyre, and Bell were on house arrest after the home invasion, days away from their own certification hearings, when officials say both cut off their ankle monitors in March 2017 and fled.
Before their eventual capture, officials say the pair robbed and fatally shot a 23-year-old photographer in San Antonio in April 2017. A month later, McIntyre is accused of attacking and robbing 65-year-old Skip Pepe in Cravens Park in Arlington.
‘No happy side’
Roberta Walker referenced the other alleged crimes during her statement to Bell in court on Friday.
“All of this destruction. All of this wasted time, wasted money,” she said. “I hope someday you realize how you made it worse when you and what’s his name cut off your monitor, decided to hurt some more people, decided you didn’t have the courage to face up to what you did.”
Bell will have to serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole.
He and McIntyre, however, still also face a capital murder charge in Bexar County. McIntyre was the alleged triggerman in the San Antonio shooting of the photographer, officials allege.
Prosecutor William Vassar called Walker’s death “a senseless killing that left a young girl without a father.”
“After two trials for the mastermind and shooter, we spoke with the families and felt that a 30-year sentence was appropriate,” Vassar said.
Greg Westfall, Bell’s defense attorney, said Bell’s lack of emotion Friday is the product of the extreme neglect with which he’d grown up.
“He has more feelings than what his face shows,” Westfall said.
Westfall said, like Fernandez, he hopes Bell is able to turn a corner while in prison. He called the case “horrible just all the way around.”
“There is no happy side on this nor will there ever be,” Westfall said.