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Family disappointed after suspect sentenced to life in prison for death of 20-month-old

DA's Office said it would seek death penalty in 2018
District Attorney will seek death penalty for murder of 20-month-old in Rockdale
Posted at 5:53 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 10:02:26-05

A family says they feel cheated out of justice after a suspect was sentenced to life in prison for the death of a 20-month-old girl.

Shayla Boniello, formerly known as Shawn Boniello, plead guilty to capital murder Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to the arrest affidavit, in December 2018, Boniello admitted to punching, slapping, shaking and squeezing Patricia Ann "Annie" Rader until she was motionless. Boniello told police she squeezed the victim until she felt her bones begin to pop and crush out of anger and frustration. She said she did it for at least three minutes.

”He [Boniello] showed Annie absolutely no mercy whatsoever, so in my opinion the defendant doesn’t deserve any mercy either and to me this was mercy,” said Rachel Bond, the great-aunt of Annie.

Milam County District Attorney William Torrey was initially opposed to the death penalty, but in 2018 said he would seek the punishment.

”And that’s what I asked him this morning. All we're asking you is just do the work. Just, you know, do your job. Do what you said. You promised you were going to do,” said Thomas Bond, Annie's great-uncle.

The family attended the final hearing Thursday to discover there was a plea deal for a life sentence without parole.

”This whole day has just been... it’s been emotional from the beginning, so we were hoping that our meeting this morning wasn’t going to go the way that it did. It did unfortunately,” said Rachel.

The family says this was not the verdict they expected. Family members like Audrey Blythe, whose career is to represent children and is experienced in child abuse and neglect, say adults must always look for signs.

”Especially when you're in a role like I am, where you’re trying to help other families and other children, you never expect that something like this is going to happen to your own family,” said Audrey Blythe, a cousin of the victim.

The family was able to speak to Boniello and says the opportunity gave them a sense of closure.

”It’s not what we were expecting but it was... it felt like there was a bit of closure that was given today,” said Rachel.

Although the sentence has been declared, the family says their fight is not over as they are determined to honor Annie’s life through advocacy. They say they want to ensure this does not happen to innocent children any longer.

”Advocate with the Texas legislature to try to get some type of funding or some type of bill passed where CASA is mandatory for every family after CPS is no longer involved would be one way to honor her memory,” said Rachel.