AUSTIN, Texas — Police have now formally charged a man with murder in a case from 2016 where a young man was found dead in East Austin with his neck cut.
Vinton June Fontenot, 35, is now charged for the murder of 24-year-old Tyler Benjamin Athey.
Athey's body was found dead on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, on the 1400 block of Meander Drive. Later that day, people met with the victim's mother in Buda. She reported Athey had been living with her since June when he was released from jail, and he had been at home the night before but had left around 5 p.m. with a man she did not know.
The victim's mother also reported that Athey had a girlfriend who had lived with them in her residence for about a month. Police later learned that his girlfriend was pregnant with his child.
On March 26, 2018, detectives received a tip stating that Fontenot had confessed to murdering someone in November 2016. That caller stated Fontenot identified the victim, Athey, as "Flaco" and that he said he did not deserve to be killed because he had a baby on the way. Based on information provided by the caller, police learned that Fontenot lived in Austin at the time of the murder.
On April 11, 2018, that same caller reported that Fontenot said, "I marked that [expletive] for what he owed me," referring to Athey. On July 5, the caller reported that Fontenot admitted to slicing the victim's throat with a fish filet knife he had bought at Walmart. Police confirmed that a fish filet knife was discovered on scene and blood found on the knife was confirmed to belong to the victim.
Police eventually learned that Fontenot may have been driving a white 2008 Nissan Altima on the night of the murder. A witness reported seeing a white car parked near the crime scene on the night of Athey's murder.
Investigators later learned from another source close to the victim that he believed the suspect was from Galveston and was a member of the Bloods gang. Police then confirmed that Fontenot is a documented member.
In March 2017, police learned that the 2008 Nissan Altima was burned in Houston. A source reported that Fontenot suffered severe burn injuries to his legs and arms, which he was treated for in Galveston. Police confirmed that information to be true from hospital records. The source stated he burned the car to get rid of "evidence."
Austin Police Department detectives obtained a warrant for Fontenot on May 22, 2019, stating the investigation required following up on numerous tips from citizens and substantial forensic analysis. Rain on the night of Athey's death complicated efforts for evidence collection, police said.
Police reported that they believe more than one person was involved in the alleged murder and are continuing to investigate.
Fontenot remains in the Galveston County jail on an unrelated charge, but he is expected to be transferred to Travis County at a later date.
Anyone with more information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or text "Tip 103" plus your message to CRIMES, or use the new Crime Stoppers App, or email APD Homicide at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can be made anonymously. You can also submit tips through the APD’s mobile app, Austin PD, free on iPhone and Android.