BANNING: Man charged with murdering Banning woman pleads not guilty in court

BANNING — A 21-year-old Beaumont man alleged to have murdered a woman inside a Banning apartment two weeks ago pleaded not guilty today to murder and child endangerment charges.

After Friday’s court appearance Devonta Eugene Leonard was returned to  Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, where he remains in custody on $1 million bail. His next court date for a felony settlement conference has been scheduled for April 5.

Devonta Leonard pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and child endangerment in court today. Banning PD photo

Banning PD officers arrested Leonard Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Summit Ridge Apartment Homes on the 500 block of North Hathaway Street, between E. Hoffer and E. George Streets, in Banning.

Officers were dispatched to a suspicious circumstances call shortly before 10 a.m., after receiving “several reports” of a “possible dead body” inside one of the apartments, Banning PD officials said shortly after Leonard’s arrest last month.

When officer’s arrived at the apartment they located a woman’s lifeless body inside the location. Officials almost immediately identified Leonard as a suspect in the homicide and according to jail records officers arrested him just fourteen minutes after discovering the victim’s body.

Based on the circumstances, members of Banning PD’s Detective Bureau responded to the apartment and assumed the investigation.

Although the victim’s name and age are still being withheld by coroner’s officials at the request of Banning PD, Superior Court records and other media outlets have identified her as Evangelina Y.

A criminal complaint filed against Leonard lists a 4-year-old girl as the victim related to Leonard’s child endangerment charge.

A coroner’s release indicated the victim was a Banning resident and listed her time of death as 10 a.m., when officers found her body. Her actual date and time of death have been listed as unknown and both are still pending further investigation.

Officials have not specified how the victim was reportedly killed; however, the DA’s complaint against Leonard includes an enhancement for use of a gun. Officials have also not stated how or if Leonard was related to the murdered woman and 4-year-old girl.

The Banning Police Department has asked anyone who may have additional information
regarding this investigation to contact the Banning Police Department Detective Bureau at (951) 849-1511. Callers can refer to incident file number 18-482 and can remain anonymous.


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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