Ex-boyfriend charged with torching Calif. woman in front of children surrenders to police
MORENO VALLEY, Calif. - A man suspected of killing his former girlfriend and setting her body on fire turned himself in to police on Monday, authorities in Southern California said.
Tyrone Levoid Harts surrendered to Los Angeles police Monday afternoon and was taken to the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside County where he was booked on a homicide charge, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said. Harts was held on $1 million bail.
Harts is accused of killing Brandi Marie Morales shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 22 at her Moreno Valley home. Morales had six children, ages 6 to 15.
Deputies called to the scene found her body on a staircase. She had been set on fire but four of her younger children had doused the flames before help arrived, according to a detective’s court declaration.
Family members told investigators that Morales, 35, had at least a three-year relationship with Harts, but they recently separated and he had moved out of her home, according to the declaration.
Family members said Harts sent Morales odd text messages in recent days. Morales’s 7-year-old son told investigators that he spoke with Harts by telephone before going to bed some hours before the killing, which was their usual custom.
Harts convinced the boy to leave the downstairs sliding glass door open, according to the declaration.
Investigators also were told that a masked man with a build similar to the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Harts shot at the eldest son when he went to help his mother during an assault.
The next day, Harts confessed to killing Morales in a recorded telephone conversation with a longtime friend, the detective declared.
On the recording, Harts said he went to the home and assaulted Morales but was interrupted when her eldest son entered the room, so he fired a shot to scare the boy off, then panicked and shot Morales, according to police.
A pathologist determined she died from a wound to the abdomen.
On the recording, Harts told his friend that “people on the outside may think this was a crime of passion, but it was not,” according to the declaration.