RIVERSIDE – Jury selection is slated to get underway today for the trial of a convicted felon accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and then setting her body aflame as her children watched.
Tyrone Lev Harts, 41, could face the death penalty if convicted in the 2011 death of 35-year-old Brandi Morales.
Over the next week, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Theirbach is expected to summon more than 150 prospective jurors to the Riverside Hall of Justice for screening as to their availability and qualifications.
Harts is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, five counts of child endangerment, as well as special circumstance allegations of killing in the course of a burglary and lying in wait.
He’s being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
Sheriff’s investigators allege that on the night of Feb. 22, 2011, the 6- foot-2, 300-pound defendant attacked Morales at her two-story residence in the 11800 block of Wild Flax Lane in Moreno Valley.
The defendant was bitter about Morales ending their three-year relationship. According to the prosecution, he contacted one of the victim’s six children and convinced the youngster to leave the home’s back patio sliding glass door unlocked for him, then snuck inside the residence after the mom and kids fell asleep.
The ex-con went to an upstairs bedroom and allegedly shot Morales in the stomach, waking her children, according to prosecutors.
The woman’s oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, attempted to rush to his mother’s aid, prompting Harts to fire a shot at the teenager, who retreated, prosecutors allege.
Morales managed to get out of the bedroom, but collapsed on the staircase, where the defendant allegedly set her body on fire, according to investigators. Evidence presented at Harts’ 2012 preliminary hearing indicated the woman was dead when the defendant lit the match.
Morales’ children — the youngest 6 years old — extinguished the flames as Harts fled the scene.
He remained on the run for two weeks before turning himself in to sheriff’s deputies.
According to court records, Harts’ prior felony convictions include carjacking, illegal possession of a loaded firearm and attempting to obscure or erase identifying information on a gun.