No Justice for Janette? Dallas Man Sentenced to Probation in Fatal Assault of Trans Woman

Janette Tovar, a trans woman and bar promoter in Dallas, died in 2012 after being assaulted by her then-boyfriend.
Janette Tovar, a trans woman and bar promoter in Dallas, died in 2012 after being assaulted by her then-boyfriend.

A man responsible for the 2012 beating of a Dallas transgender woman who died from her injuries is set to receive probation and no jail sentence.

A spokesperson for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed to the Observer that Jonathan Stuart Kenney, 29, is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to first-degree felony aggravated assault. Under a plea bargain, Kenney will be sentenced to 10 years probation for the death of his then-partner, Janette Tovar.

Kenney was originally charged with murder in the death of the popular 43-year-old bar promoter after he assaulted her in October 2012. Kenney was arraigned on murder charges three days later, then officially indicted on those same charges in December 2012.

But in May 2013, the DA’s office re-indicted Kenney in Tovar’s death, this time on lesser charges of aggravated assault.

Kenney admitted to slamming Tovar’s head into the concrete roadway on West Davis Street in the early morning of October 15, 2012, then continuing to assault her at the couple’s apartment in Oak Cliff, according to an arrest affidavit. Later in the day, he called 911 and reported that he had found Tovar unresponsive.

Less than a month after Kenney’s arrest, his bond was reduced to $50,000 from $500,000, and he secured his release in December 2012. In total, he’ll have served approximately two months’ time for killing Tovar.

Jonathan Kenney
Under a plea bargain, Jonathan Kenney will be sentenced to 10 years probation.

Neither the prosecutor nor Kenney’s defense attorney responded to messages seeking comment. Kenney’s plea hearing, initially set for October 1, was rescheduled for Tuesday.

Tovar’s cousin, Marisa Anguiano, said she believes the hearing was moved up because she’s been publicizing the terms of the plea bargain, including during a vigil for another Dallas trans woman, Shade Schuler, who was killed earlier this year.

Anguiano told the Observer she visited the DA’s office Monday morning in an effort to meet with the prosecutor assigned to Kenney’s case. She was “hoping for a miracle.”

According to Anguiano, four different prosecutors have been assigned to the case over the last three years, and the DA’s office has had difficulty with uncooperative witnesses.

Kenney and Tovar had been together for more than a year at the time of her death and had recently moved in together. But this was not the first time he physically abused her, Anguiano said.

The manager of the couple’s apartment, who lived directly below them, told police they were “always fighting” and did so between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the day of Tovar’s death, when he heard Tovar yell, “Get off me.”

Kenney called 911 at about 4 p.m. that day and reported that Tovar was unresponsive and not breathing. Before his arrest, he took to Facebook to say goodbye to her but never mentioned the assault.

Kenney later gave a taped statement to police in which he confessed to assaulting Tovar, who died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Anguiano is planning a float in Dallas’ LGBT Pride parade on Sunday in Tovar’s memory and maintains a Facebook page in her memory: Justice for Janette Tovar.

Read Jonathan Kenny’s indictment on aggravated assault charges here.

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 4:02 pm CST
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