The year 2019 will go down in local history as the year in which a number of locals were convicted of killing friends and relations. Two different cases of parents starving their children were resolved in convictions.
Sebastian Roman — sentenced in October to 99 years in prison for killing his wife Maria Ortez in June of 2018 at the family home in Tioga. Roman told police that he didn’t know who had shot and killed his wife while she lay resting in their bedroom. He said he had been kidnapped that night and driven away from the home and when he returned home he found her dead on their bed. Jurors took just under 30 minutes to convict him of the killing.
Michael James Ouellette and his wife Shannon — were sentenced to probation after a 2018 incident in which they were both found running away from a structure fire. The couple was naked. When law enforcement attempted to stop the couple, they became combative and non compliant with officers. Police eventually subdued Michael Ouellette with a stun gun and Shannon Ouellette was arrested for assaulting a police officer. Micheal Ouellette got a $1,000 fine, deferred adjudication probation of six years for arson, five years deferred adjudication probation on the remaining cases, restitution to the agencies that responded, and other various terms of probation. Shannon Ouellette was sentenced to five years of deferred adjudication and five weekends in jail.
Tripp Bird was sentenced in August to seven years in prison on an aggravated assault charge and ten years probation on a failure to stop and rend aid charge in an accident involving injury. At the heart of the trial was a road rage incident that ended in a two-car wreck on FM 691 back in July of 2016. Jennifer Russell, a passenger in one of the cars in the wreck, suffered serious injuries and eventually went through more than 20 operations. Her right leg was so badly damaged that it had to be removed, and Russell died in December of 2018.
Damon DeShawn Finley was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — family violence and injury to a child in August after a jury found that he had shaken his infant daughter so severely that she suffered bleeding on her brain with injuries to her eyes and multiple broken bones. The child survived but has been left with a number of serious deficits. The incident occurred in January of 2018.
Ceasar Sermeno was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison. He must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
John Ardnt was sentenced to 45 years in prison in July after pleading guilty to injury to a child in the starvation death of his 12-year-old son back February of 2018. The child suffered from mental illness and Ardnt and his wife, Jennifer, withheld food from him as a form of punishment. Jennifer Ardnt pleaded guilty as well and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Previously published reports show the case against Arndt and her husband, John Howard Arndt, began back on Oct. 12, 2018 when Denison Police received a call from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services regarding a 12-year-old boy who was brought to Texoma Medical Center with significant injuries and malnutrition. The family lived in the 1300 block of West Woodard Street. The child was treated locally, but transported to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where he was pronounced dead on Oct. 17.
Tartiauna Roberts was sentenced to 60 years in prison following her conviction in June on a first degree injury to a child charge in the starvation death of her eight-week old son. The case began back on June 12, 2017 when Roberts called for help for her son, Amori Long. Gunter Police and Fire Department both sent responders to her apartment. When those responders arrived, they found Amori cold to the touch and unresponsive. Though paramedics tried, they were not able to revive the baby who was pronounced dead at Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center in Sherman.
Christopher Harrell was sentenced to life in prison in May after being convicted of murder in the 2017 death of Michael Lindsey. Lindsey’s body was found buried under household items at a home on West Gandy in Denison on Oct. 1, 2017. Harrell had been house sitting in the home for about a month before the body was discovered. After not hearing from her father for several days, Lindsey’s daughter filed a missing person report on him and stopped a truck that looked like Lindsey’s in Sherman after that missing person’s report was filed. When the officer asked the driver for identification, the driver produced Lindsey’s drivers license and other identification. He answered questions as though he were, in fact, Lindsey. When the officer reported those answers to Lindsey’s daughter, she knew there was something very wrong. The driver had said he had a fight with his sister and would contact family when he was ready. Harrell would eventually be tracked to a hotel in a small town about two hours away from Grayson County. He still had Lindsey’s truck, identification, bank card and other belongings. He told officers that Lindsey was dead and then told them where to find the body.
Reginald Campbell, Karalynn Cross, and Nikeya Grant were each convicted of killing hotel clerk Brandon Hubert back in August of 2017. Campbell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to capital murder in Hubert’s death. In exchange for the plea, the D.A.’s Office agreed not to seek the death penalty in the case. Cross was sentenced to 55 years in prison. Grant was sentenced to 25 years after pleading guilty to aggravated robbery in the crime. Testimony during the hearings in the case revealed that Campbell was the person who actually went into the hotel and shot Hubert. Cross actually went into the hotel to check it out and told Campbell it would be a good place to rob. She also drove the getaway car. Grant never left the vehicle but did nothing to stop or report the crime.
Hubert was found dead at the Quality Suites, 2900 N. U.S. Highway 75, at 6 a.m. on August 11, 2017. During a sentencing hearing, Campbell admitted to shooting Hubert in the head before getting scared and running away without any money. He then admitted that he had turned around and retrieved the $300 from the robbery before leaving Hubert on the floor. Campbell told prosecutors he initially told Grant and Cross that he had shot the hotel clerk in the arm.
Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor for the Herald Democrat. Contact her at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com or on Twitter @JLWhiteley.