TEMPLE (Texas) — A man who had bonded out of the Travis County Jail back in September has been accused of stabbing a Temple woman to death.
According to an arrest affidavit, this week Temple police officers found Rose Davis on the floor, duct-taped to a chair, with multiple cuts to her throat and stomach.
The document states that before she died, Davis identified her attacker as the ex-husband of her son’s current girlfriend, a man named Christopher Henry.
Henry was arrested and charged with capital murder — but KXAN Investigators have learned Henry had already been accused of several violent offenses in Travis County.
According to arrest affidavits from July 2019, Henry was charged with several counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, following investigations into two robberies different EZ Pawn locations in Austin. He is also facing a deadly conduct charge — accused of firing a weapon at a South Austin apartment the same day.
Court records show Henry was being held in the Travis County Jail on several bonds totaling more than $1 million, but the Travis County District Attorney’s office said Henry’s lawyers pushed for his bond amount to be reduced.
In a hearing on September 17, 2019, a judge granted a reduction to his bond: to about $100,000, under the condition Henry wore a GPS ankle monitor.
The Travis County D.A’s Office said he posted bail using a “surety bond” soon thereafter.
District Attorney Margaret Moore said in the “vast majority” of cases, her office does not oppose a bond reduction, and she said they even might recommend a person’s release on a Personal Recognizance Bond pending a trial. She said in this case, however, her office opposed a reduction to Henry’s bond.
“It’s cases where the violence of the offense, or a violent criminal history, indicates a strong risk to an individual victim, or the community at large,” Moore said. “We have had instances where we do feel the judge should have ruled with us on a bond question, and that is frustrating.”
KXAN has reached out to Judge Chantal Eldridge in the 331st Criminal District Court, where the bond hearing was held. Her office has not responded to our request for comment.
Former District Judge Charlie Baird said judges look at a variety of factors when setting or approving any reductions to a bond amount, or when granting a PR bond.
“You are predicting the future, based upon the judge’s experience or expertise,” Baird said. “It is still a very human decision, and mistakes can be made, unfortunately.”
He encouraged people to remember being charged with a crime does not mean a person has been convicted. So he said they have to weigh the defendant’s constitutional right to get out of jail on bond while awaiting trial, against the public safety of the community.
“Typically the community is the county you are in. A judge would not necessarily know to be concerned about a crime or offense in another county,” Baird said.
He said stipulations like requiring an ankle monitor can help provide that balance.
The arrest affidavit from Temple police states that records from the required GPS locator do indicate Henry was near Davis’s apartment at the time she was stabbed.
Henry was set to appear in Travis County court this July in relation to the aggravated robbery and deadly conduct charges.
As coronavirus began to spread in jails across the state, the criminal justice system turned to bond reductions and PR bonds to reduce jail populations and allow for social distancing.
But Moore said bail reform was a priority in Travis County long before the virus was making headlines. She said the county has a 70% “release rate” — people qualifying for release with a PR bond.
Criminal justice advocates in Travis County have long fought to end the cash bail system, pointing to the ways that people of color or low socioeconomic status are disproportionately represented in the county’s criminal justice system.
“What we have now, if you don’t have a personal bond, then you have individuals who have to have to hire a surety, or bonding company, and that’s expensive,” Baird said. “In order to make the playing field even, or level… personal bonds are something we should have.”
In April, the Austin City Council passed a resolution aiming to end money bonds and what they called “wealth-based detention” in Travis County.