A violent offender who killed a mother and child should never have been out of prison.
By John Friend
A young child and a mother of two killed earlier this year by a serial criminal who was repeatedly given breaks by the criminal justice system has many concerned about the notion of criminal justice reform, long promoted by Democrats and most recently by President Donald Trump and GOP leaders.
On April 19, Eric Ewald, Tonya Horn, and their young eight-year-old daughter Rylee were in their 2013 Nissan Murano heading home after picking up their dog from the veterinarian in the metropolitan Oklahoma City area. Their vehicle was violently struck by a stolen pickup truck driven by Andrew Munoz, a 27-year-old with a lengthy criminal history. Riding with Munoz in the passenger seat was Deanna Alvarez, a 35-year-old woman who, according to Munoz’s testimony to Oklahoma City police, was a high-ranking member of a drug cartel in the area.
Munoz and Alvarez were fleeing from police at the time, who had attempted to pull over the stolen vehicle Munoz was driving. After initially slowing down and attempting to stop for police, Munoz sped off, leading officers on a high-speed chase. Munoz ran a stop sign and smashed into the vehicle driven by Ewald and occupied by both Horn and young Rylee, killing the young child and her mother. Ewald was pinned underneath his vehicle before being rushed to a local hospital, where he was treated for several serious injuries he sustained in the collision. He survived the devastating wreck, but his wife and young daughter tragically did not. A GoFundMe page has been established by a relative of Ewald’s soliciting donations to help him with medical expenses.
Investigating officers and first responders found close to 35 grams of methamphetamine on Munoz along with a loaded firearm. Alvarez also had a gun in her purse, additional methamphetamine and $4,000 in cash. It is believed the pair was involved in trafficking drugs at the time of the pursuit and fatal collision. Munoz told officers that Alvarez pulled her gun on him while he was driving and told him “he would be dead” if he pulled over for police.
According to The Oklahoman, Munoz and Alvarez were charged with a slew of serious crimes, including first-degree murder, drug trafficking, illegal possession of firearms, and possession of drug proceeds. Additionally, Munoz faces charges of causing an accident without a valid license and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
A concerned citizen and supporter of the Ewald family set up a number of social media profiles to raise awareness of their plight and to highlight the dangers of so-called criminal justice reform, which arguably played a key role in this tragic situation. This reporter contacted this individual, who maintains the Twitter profile Justice For Rylee (@RyleeJustice) who agreed to be interviewed for this report anonymously.
According to local media reports and court records, Munoz “has been charged or convicted of seven different crimes over an 11-year period,” the source explained to this reporter. “These include an armed robbery charge (case was dismissed) in 2008, a narcotics conviction in 2010 (deferred sentence), aggravated eluding of police conviction in 2012 (sentenced to five years, served three), and convictions of obstructing an officer and unauthorized use of a vehicle in 2017 (with his deferred sentence, he served 11 months and then was sentenced to nine years’ probation).”
Our source provided more details about Munoz and his criminal behavior leading up to the tragic death of Horn and her young daughter.
“Despite committing basically the same crimes in 2017, he was given a lighter sentence than he was in 2012,” the concerned citizen explained. “I believe this is because of criminal justice reform laws passed in Oklahoma in 2016, specifically State Questions 780 & 781. To add insult to injury, in January 2019, Munoz was again arrested by police for driving with no license or insurance—a clear violation of his probation—yet was released. Predictably, he did not show up to his April 8 court date.”
On April 11, a bench warrant was issued for Munoz’s arrest, yet it was never executed. Eight days later, Munoz would flee from police at nearly 80 miles per hour, striking the vehicle driven by Ewald and occupied by his wife and daughter, killing them both.
“Our focus with this project is the criminal justice reform laws,” the source told this reporter. “Tonya and Rylee were failed by the state of Oklahoma again and again. Every one of those failures made that horrible day in April possible.”
This concerned citizen is aiming to pressure Oklahoma officials to conduct an investigation into Munoz’s criminal background, halt the passage of any criminal justice reform laws until that investigation is complete, and ultimately repeal the seemingly misguided criminal justice reform laws that likely led to the tragic death of Rylee and her mother. Additionally, Oklahoma should enact a law that ensures individuals with extensive criminal records who are on probation and are arrested again remain jailed until their court date.
John Friend is a freelance writer based in California.
More and more, we have a ‘justice’ system that instead of being color blind has become inclined to give light sentences to people of color (Jussie Smolett), and harsher ones to whites, particularly if convicted of ‘hate’ crimes.