Twenty-four-year-old Vernon Menifee had six prior felony convictions and had just completed a six-month sentence when law enforcement arrested him in January of 2019 on charges of Felon in Possession of a weapon.
Released on bond from the 209th District Court in Harris County, Menifee would be rearrested on charges of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity and Burglary of a Building in December 2019 and March 2020, but in each case, the court under Judge Brian Warren authorized his release on bond.
After his arrest and detention on charges of Murder and Aggravated Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, Menifee was detained in the Harris County Jail until August 21, 2020 when he was again released on bonds of $150,000 and $75,000.
Last week the Houston Police Department obtained a new warrant for Menifee related to his alleged participation in a burglary in which a woman was shot.
A copy of the complaint obtained by The Texan describes an alleged break-in in which three men pretending to be police either kicked in or broke through a door. One of the men exchanged gunfire with the female resident of the home. The female sustained a gunshot wound to the arm but also managed to shoot one of the suspects who later sought medical treatment at the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston.
The request for warrant filed by the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders Division says that the three men then fled, but abandoned a stolen truck at the scene which was found to have fingerprints matching those of Menifee. Additionally, Menifee was identified by a witness by both his previous booking photo and by his appearance in a music video with another suspect charged in the case, Marlon Weatherspoon.
The complaint also notes that Menifee is known to police as a member of the Early Boys street gang.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to prevent Menifee’s release on bond should he be re-arrested under the new charges, but had also requested no bond in his previous murder charge; a request that was rejected by Judge Warren’s court.
Records from the Harris County District Clerk’s website indicate that Weatherspoon was also released on a $125,000 bond last month from the 351st District Court under Judge George Powell. Weatherspoon also has a criminal history dating back to 2011 and was released on bond in 2018 after being charged with Aggravated Robbery with a Deadly Weapon.
Harris County continues to grapple with the consequences of lenient bond policies, but a recent report from a commissioners court-appointed monitoring board lauds the county’s reduction in both the number of pre-trial detentions and arrests.
Commissioner Steve Radak (R-Pct.3) however took issue with the report and told The Texan that in an effort to meet a required deadline, the report did not include important data from all board members. Radack disputed the implication that bond policies reducing jail population were not impacting public safety.
“They don’t want to admit that there are problems with this program, period,” Radack said. “Serious problems that are causing people to be maimed and killed.”
Radack said there were murders, drunk driving incidents, and other crimes threatening public safety that could be tied to more lenient arrest, charging, and bond policies.
“They release this glowing report, saying it’s all working perfectly, but it is actually working in a way that is detrimental to the law-abiding citizens of Harris County.”
Andy Kahan of Crime Stoppers Houston says that there have now been more than 52 defendants charged with a murder who were out on either felony bond, multiple felony bonds, or a Personal Recognizance bond.
Earlier this year Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, District Attorney Kim Ogg (D), Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Makarious, several county constables, and police chiefs from Deer Park, Bellaire, West University Place, and Pasadena held a press conference to highlight rising crime rates and the problems created by the county’s bond and detention policies.
A recent Wall Street Journal analysis also reported that homicides in Houston have increased by 27 percent from last year.
A third suspect in the May 30 burglary, Xavier McConico, is being detained in the Harris County Jail system on multiple charges including murder.
Court records indicate Menifee is not in custody at this time.
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Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.