HOUSTON – Bond was raised to $2 million Wednesday for the father accused of murdering his 2-year-old daughter during a domestic dispute.
Deontray Flanagan, 25, has been charged with murder in the death of his 2-year-old daughter, Zevaya Flanagan.
Flanagan made another court appearance Wednesday after prosecutors filed a motion to increase to $5 million. His initial bond was set at $1 million Tuesday.
Gilbert Sawtelle, chief in the child fatality section at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said they believe the suspect strangled and assaulted his daughter as he demanded for her mother’s cellphone password during the police pursuit.
“It’s a horrible case, it’s every parents worse nightmare, every mother’s worse nightmare,” Sawtelle said.
After hearing facts of the case and Flanagan’s criminal history, the judge raised his bond to $2 million.
Deontray Flanagan makes his first appearance in front of a judge. He’s accused of killing his 2-year-old daughter Zevaya. @KPRC2 https://t.co/J9oDv3tUJq pic.twitter.com/Pq9b5mXh9F— Rilwan Balogun (@KPRC2Rilwan) March 22, 2023
Prosecutors said charges could be upgraded to capital murder if medical examiner’s prove she died by strangulation.
The incident began around 10:15 a.m. on Monday after deputies responded to reports of a family disturbance on West FM 1960.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Flanagan went to a private daycare and removed his daughter before driving to the mother’s job at a local Walmart. There, deputies said Flanagan confronted his child’s mother and demanded her cellphone while threatening to harm the toddler.
The mother complied, but Flanagan refused to hand over the child, and instead, hit the mother in the face several times before leaving the store in a red Camaro, prompting a police chase.
According to court documents, at some point during the chase, the mother was able to facetime Flanagan who then asked her to give him the password to her phone. When she refused, documents say Flanagan started hitting the child and choking her while still on Facetime with the mother.
After hanging up with the girl’s mother, court documents say Flanagan facetimed his stepfather and told him that his daughter “was gone.”
Once the 30-mile chase finally came to a stop, SWAT officers surrounded the vehicle and arrested Flanagan.
Officers then located Zevaya, who they said was unconscious and unresponsive. Prosecutors said she was lifeless when Life Flight was called to the scene and was pronounced dead as soon as she arrived at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Initially, authorities said Flanagan told them that Zevaya was injured due to her “jumping around the car” during the chase. But, according to court documents that were released more than 24 hours after his arrest, the child was struck “with or against a blunt object” and then choked.
It was also confirmed in the court documents that Zevaya was not restrained in a car seat and Flanagan did not seek medical attention, which ultimately resulted in her death.
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with unexpected funeral costs.
Prosecutors address string events before fatal incident
On Tuesday, the Watson family told KPRC 2 the chase was the end of a string of events that started on March 15 when they claim Flanagan barged into their home and took the 2-year-old from the bathtub.
“She had no clothes on and he didn’t say anything,” said the toddler’s aunt, Kaci Watson. “The police said that our statement wasn’t credible and that we invited him to steal the baby. We didn’t know where she was going to be.”
Harris County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the mother of Zavaya’s home to investigate Flanagan for an alleged terroristic threat.
After taking the mother’s statement, the responding deputy consulted with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and the officer determined that there was insufficient evidence to support filing a criminal charge at the time, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s Office.
Deputies said a welfare check was conducted in an attempt to locate Flanagan, but all attempts to locate him were unsuccessful.
Zevaya’s grandfather, Curtis Watson, said they called the police multiple times and felt they were ignored.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, it said it referred the case for further investigation.
Suspect’s criminal history
According to records, Flanagan has a past history of violence against family members.
He was charged for assault causing bodily injury and evading arrest in 2017.
In 2018, he was charged with assault causing bodily injury to a family member. That same year, he was also charged with criminal mischief.
Do you know someone in need of help? KPRC 2 has released the following series on “Breaking Free.”