On 1-year anniversary of Janette Tovar’s death in Oak Cliff, her cousin is urging her friends to tell the truth, other witnesses to come forward


Janette Tovar

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

It’s been a year since transgender woman Janette Tovar died in her Oak Cliff home, but her family is hoping people will still remember the events surrounding her death to help prosecute the man accused of killing her.

Tovar died Oct. 15, 2012, after her boyfriend Jonathan Stuart Kenney allegedly assaulted her. She was 43. The couple was seen fighting in the early morning when Kenney allegedly slammed her head against concrete in the 830 block of West Davis Street. He allegedly continued to assault her when they returned home at 918 W. Eighth Street.

Hours later, he called 911 after finding her unresponsive in their home.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a homicide, with the cause of death listed as blunt force trauma to the head. Kenney, 27, was indicted for murder last December. He was re-indicted on aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury earlier this year. The offense is still a first-degree felony since prosecutors are combining it with family violence because the two were in a relationship.  If convicted, Kenney faces five years to life in prison and a fine up to $10,000, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Kenney provided a taped statement to police shortly after Tovar’s death, admitting that he slammed Tovar’s head into the concrete, and he continued to assault her after they arrived home at their apartment, the arrest affidavit states.

But Marisa Anguiano, Tovar’s cousin, is worried that the evidence is not enough to convict Kenney.

Anguiano said she’s been in constant contact with investigators on the case, and was told recently they are still having trouble getting the main witness who saw Kenney assault Tovar on the street to testify. And time is running out with a pre-trial date set for Dec. 13 and trial scheduled for Jan. 13, 2014.

“That’s very important for her to tell that story,” Anguiano said about the friend.

Several calls to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office seeking comment about the investigation were not returned.

Anguiano said the friend is engaged and wasn’t supposed to be out with friends that night, so she’s worried about the fate of her relationship if she comes forward. She also said the friend is concerned about being involved in a murder, especially one involving a trans person.

“My biggest fear is this: what if they don’t find her?” Anguiano asked. “And then what happens? That’s our only hope right now. The only hope.”

While the DA’s office can subpoena the friend and other witnesses, Anguiano said she’s evaded questioning. Others who’ve spoken about the events that night have said they saw Kenney and Tovar fight often, but it was never physical. Anguiano said many people saw Kenney get physical with Tovar, who had told some friends about the violence on other occasions.

Anguiano said she hopes people who once cared for Tovar won’t let her murderer get away with her death just because they don’t want to be involved in a murder trial.

“There’s something very selfish about every one of these people who called themselves friends and associates [not coming forward],” she said. “In a way they’re trying to play judge and jury, thinking that people won’t care about the truth.”

Anguiano said the possibility that Kenney won’t pay for Tovar’s death is unbearable when her cousin was taken from this earth too soon. She said she hopes someone who saw something —anything — that night comes forward.

“It’s really heartbreaking for me and the family when everyone was so adamant about helping,” she said. “We’re trying to get someone to come forward.”

People with information about the case should contact Dallas County DA spokeswoman Debbie Denmon at 214-653-3612.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 25, 2013.