RIVERSIDE (AP) — A jury on Friday recommended the death penalty for a man who shot his ex-girlfriend and lit her on fire in front of her five children in her California home.
Tyrone Harts, 41, of Riverside was convicted last month of murder, attempted murder and five counts of felony child endangerment in the 2011 death of Brandi Morales. The children ranged in age from 6 to 15.
Prosecutors said Harts spoke with each of the children by phone on Feb. 21, 2011, and persuaded Morales’ 7-year-old son to leave a downstairs sliding glass door unlocked that night.
Harts later sneaked into the home with a handgun and attacked Morales in her bedroom.
Her eldest son heard her screams, grabbed a kitchen knife and tried to help her, but Harts fired at him and missed.
The shots woke the four younger children and they arrived at their mother’s bedroom door in time to see Harts setting her ablaze, district attorney spokesman John Hall said.
The children tried to use cups of water to extinguish the flames.
An autopsy later found Morales had been shot once in the torso and suffered first- and second-degree burns over 50 to 60 percent of her body.
Harts fled but turned himself in to authorities in Los Angeles the following month.
Family members told investigators that Morales, 35, had at least a three-year relationship with Harts, but they had recently separated and he had moved out of her home.
He had sent Morales bizarre text messages in the days before the murder and then confessed to the crime the next day to a friend in a phone conversation that was being recorded by police, according to a detective’s court declaration.
A judge will have the final say on Harts’ sentence at a hearing set for Jan. 30.