PORT LAVACA – Calhoun County officers have arrested a wife and her sister after evidence didn’t add up in the April hit-and-run death of her husband.

Janice Bonnell, 45, from Seadrift, was arrested Saturday morning on suspicion of murder in connection with the death of her husband, Brett Bonnell, Calhoun County Sheriff B.B. Browning said.

Brett Bonnell, 40, was found laying in front of his Ford Probe on the side of Old Seadrift Highway about four miles outside of Seadrift on April 24. The autopsy showed he died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Janice Bonnell originally told officers her husband left their mobile home at Seadrift RV on Broadway Avenue to buy a phone card from the Port Lavaca Wal-Mart, Browning said.

His body was found at 5 a.m. the next day by a maintenance worker, Browning said.

While his Probe had a flat tire, investigators found no evidence he was struck at that scene by another vehicle.

The road showed no skid marks and based on his head wound, it seemed like a side-view mirror of a vehicle could have struck him, Browning said. But investigators found no glass or any material at the scene.

“We didn’t buy what we saw,” Browning said.

Additionally, Bonnell’s blood didn’t run down his T-shirt even though he was laying on a hill, Browning said.

Then, the sheriff’s office received a tip about the homicide. Investigators made sure to get the facts straight and confronted Janice Bonnell with how the evidence didn’t add up, Browning said.

Monday night, Janice Bonnell admitted to investigators that she killed her husband, Browning said. She also told investigators that her sister, Betty Roney, 49, from Seadrift, helped dispose of the body.

Officers suspect the actual scene of the death was the Bonnells’ travel trailer, Browning said. The sheriff won’t disclose the murder weapon at this time.

Officers called the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab from Corpus Christi and a Texas Ranger to collect evidence and further develop the case, Browning said. They’re working to verify the information Janice Bonnell told them Monday night. Investigators haven’t determined a motive yet, Browning said.

He said he thought it interesting that these same women hounded investigators for not finding Brett Bonnell’s killer.

Both women are in the Calhoun County Jail. Janice Bonnell’s murder charge came with a $1 million bail. Roney had been charged for drug possession under a $6,000 in an unrelated case.

Roney was charged with theft-receiving stolen property last year in Bartholomew County in Indiana, according to the Indiana Clerk of Courts.

The Bonnells, with Janice’s 13-year-old daughter, came to Seadrift from Hope, Ind., at the beginning of the year.

Brett Bonnell took a job with the Victoria parks department.

Janice Bonnell hoped to open a custom embroidery shop on April 24.

She had complained of mounting bills, including storage for her husband’s impounded car, according to a May 12 Advocate report. Her husband had a single $19,000 insurance policy.

She and her sister, who lived in the county, started working at the Speedy Stop in Port O’Connor, where Janice Bonnell was eventually arrested.

The Bonnells’ former next door neighbor in Hope said he’s shocked but also relieved that police made an arrest.

“Wow. Total amazement that she wanted him dead,” said Joe Baut. “I can’t really describe the feeling.”

Brett Bonnell’s life went downhill after his marriage, Baut said.

“I don’t think he had too much enjoyment after he married her,” said Baut, who was Brett Bonnell’s best man at his wedding.

Janice’s daughter remains in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Tara Bozick is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-580-6504 or tbozick@vicad.com

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