Man accused of murder while out on bond for another murder finally denied bail

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

20-year old Traveon Tatum is now being held in the Harris County Jail in downtown Houston, accused of shooting and killing 18-year old Ondreus Patterson last month. But given the fact that Tatum is also facing murder charges that were filed in 2019, as well as aggravated assault charges from 2020, a lot of people are understandably asking why the suspect was out on bond instead of being bars awaiting trial.

Court records show that when Tatum was charged with murder in October of 2019, bond was set at the low amount of $50,000. Within just a few days of that bond hearing Tatum was released from custody, only to be charged with a separate count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in May of 2020. Despite the fact that this was Tatum’s second alleged violent offense in less than a year, a judge set bond at $150,000.

Tatum remained in custody until last year, when he was able to bond out. According to prosecutors, Tatum then proceeded to violate the terms of his bond on multiple occasions by violating curfew and failing drug tests. Still, the young man wasn’t ordered back into custody. Instead, the next time he showed up at the county jail was after he was arrested for Ondreus Patterson’s murder in early February.

Harris County prosecutors have laid the blame for Tatum’s release at the feet of Judge Josh Hill, telling Houston news station ABC13, “As the records shows, we have repeatedly warned the court that this is violent offender should be held behind bars pending trial. The record also shows that the judge did not agree. Now the defendant is charged murdering someone else.”

At Tatum’s most recent bond hearing this week, the judge pushed back.

Judge Hill, however, sees it differently. ABC13 reached out to him repeatedly to ask why the bond was never denied in 2020, when Tatum was accused of violating his bond. While the judge cannot comment on pending cases, he made his argument clear in court.

“The law requires an actual hearing, where admissible evidence is presented in every instance. Where the state wants to hold someone at no bond, take away someone’s bond, or raise someone’s bond,” Judge Hill said.

Judge Hill argued that while the state filed a motion to deny bond back in 2020, the district attorney’s office did not properly request the hearing, like they did this time.

“I see there was never a hearing requested on that motion, had there been a hearing, the hearing would have been granted,” Judge Hill said.

Sounds to me like there’s more than enough blame to go around, especially since virtually everyone involved (save for the defendant and his attorneys) believe that, at the very least, Tatum’s bond should have been revoked in 2020. Personally, I’d like to know why it wasn’t revoked at any point in 2021 as well, given the repeated violations of his bond conditions that were documented by prosecutors.

No matter the excuses, the fact remains that Tatum was allowed to remain free, even as the violent felony charges filed against him continued to grow. Tatum would appear to be the textbook example of an individual who poses a threat to the community and should be held without bond; if not after his first murder charge then especially after he was accused of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon the following year.

The fact that this happened in the heart of the Lone Star State is evidence that it’s not just blue state residents who have to worry about what’s happening in their criminal justice system, and it’s further proof that ultimately your safety is your responsibility. The state couldn’t even keep an accused killer behind bars when he violated the terms of his bond, so the idea that it can protect you from every bad actor on the streets is simply a fantasy.