TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Police made an arrest in the death of a 14-year-old girl shot and killed in Temple Terrace in May. In a press conference Friday morning, Deputy Chief Calvin Johnson said his team, the U.S. Marshals Office, and the State Attorneys Office worked tirelessly to bring an arrest.
"As a parent, I know that this will never take away that deep sense of loss that Ashley and her family feel that their daughter would never come home to them again," he said. "As a police department, we hope this arrest provides some sense of closure for the family, knowing that this violent criminal is behind bars."
Nilexia Alexander's mother Ashley said she prayed for this day to come.
"I thank everyone who was able to bring this person to justice. I thank you. It won't bring my baby girl back, but it will give me some peace that he's off the streets and a little bit of closure," she said through tears.
Alexander was found by the road near the 100 block of Floribraska Avenue on May 6. On Thursday police announced the arrest of Ronny Walker, 44, for her death.
Authorities said U.S. Marshals took Walker into custody Thursday afternoon. Tampa Police said Walker is being charged with premeditated first-degree murder with a firearm.
State Attorney Andrew Warren said while the case will be complicated, he's proud of the work put in to lead to an arrest.
"TPD has done great work to make an arrest and to put our office in a position now to prosecute and Nilexia's killer. We're going to take over the prosecution of this case. We're going to go where the evidence and the law take us and we will seek justice for Nilexia, Ashley, and for all of Nilexia's family and friends who are devastated by this crime," he said.
Tampa Police said detectives were able to tie Walker's vehicle to that area during the time of the murder. Detectives also said that cellphone evidence placed Alexander inside Walker's vehicle around the time of her death.
According to TPD, a search warrant was done on Walker's vehicle and evidence was sent to FDLE. Results from FDLE tested positive for Alexander's DNA.
This isn't Walker's first murder charge. He was charged with first degree murder in 2009 for the 2003 murder of Elaine Caldwell.
"He was convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter back in 2010. That conviction was overturned on appeal. And ultimately he was sentenced to eight years in prison," said State Attorney Warren.
Walker was released from prison, but violated his probation with alcohol charges in 2017. He was sentenced to an additional four years after that.
When asked how Walker could get out of prison only to be charged with murder again, the State Attorney said prosecution can be complicated.
"The reality is that most people who go through the criminal justice system don't go to prison for life. And had he been convicted back in 2010 of murder too, then maybe it would have been different," said Warren. "If there weren't appellate issues in the case, maybe it wouldn't have been different. That's the same in any situation, in any type of case."
Veronica Denson stood among the listeners in Friday's press conference. She felt drawn to come out, because of a connection no one wants to have.
"In 2003, my mom got killed. And Ronny T. Walker is the one who got convicted for killing my Momma," she said.
Denson said when she heard the news of his arrest Thursday, she couldn't believe it.
"I don't know the family, but I felt it. It brought back so many memories. This man is an animal. They need to keep him locked up," she added. "I just want them to do everything in their power to not let this man walk again on the street."
The case remains under investigation.