Gang member accused in 2016 murder of Austin man after suspect’s wife tipped off police


AUSTIN (KXAN) — An arrest warrant has been filed for a suspect in an unsolved 2016 murder from east Austin after the suspect’s wife reported him to the authorities, according to documents filed in court. 

APD began investigating the homicide in 2016 after a body was found in east Austin by an Austin Independent School District bus driver. The victim, identified as 24-year-old Tyler Benjamin Ashley, was discovered on the 1400 block of Meander Dr., near Fort Branch. Authorities said he had ‘obvious trauma’ to his body.

In March 2018, police received a call on their tip line from a woman who told them that her husband confessed to her that he murdered someone in November 2016. She identified her husband as 35-year-old Vinton June Fontenot.

The woman told police Fontenot named the man he claimed he killed as Tyler and said he did not deserve to die because he had a baby on the way. During the initial 2016 investigation, police interviewed Ashley’s live-in girlfriend who told them she was pregnant and that Ashley was the father. 

Police conducted a background check on Fontenot and discovered he and his wife lived in Austin at the time of the murder.

Fontenot’s wife called the tip line again in July 2018, and said Fontenot told her he “slit the victim’s throat from ear to ear” with a fish filet knife he purchased at Wal Mart.

The manner in which Ashley died and the murder weapon were details that police never revealed to the public. A fish filet knife was found near his body during investigations in 2016. 

A witness told police in 2016 that they saw Ashley and an unknown man sitting in a parked white car where his body was later found. Fontenot’s wife told police on the night of the murder he left their home her white Nissan Altima to sell drugs. She said a year later, Fontenot burned the car in Houston. The Houston Fire Department and confirmed this claim. 

About a month before she learned her car had been burned, she told police Fontenot came home with severe burns on his arms and legs. They went to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for treatment. APD confirmed with the hospital a man by the same name was indeed treated for second-degree flash burns to his arms and legs.

When Fontenot’s wife asked her husband about the car she told police he said he burned it to get rid of “evidence.” 

During an in-person interview in July 2018, Fontenot’s wife told investigators that on the night of the murder, he came home and told her to pack her things because they were leaving to go to Galveston, where he is from. Police confirmed that Fontenot is a documented member of the Bloods gang from Galveston.

During the drive, she said she noticed a bag of cocaine and cash in the car. She asked her husband about it and said Fontenot told her he had robbed someone for it. She also said she saw a driver’s license in the car’s center console, which Fontenot said belonged to the man he robbed. Police showed her Ashley’s license, and she confirmed it was the one she saw the night of the murder.

Fontenot is currently in custody in Galveston on various charges and police have his DNA on file. Police are analyzing his DNA to see if it matches DNA found at the murder scene.

Police believe there was more than one person involved in the 2016 murder and are continuing to investigate. Meanwhile, a warrant has been issued for Fontenot’s arrest in connection to the murder, and he is expected to be transferred to the Travis County Jail.

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