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Shelby County jury sentences man who beat ex-girlfriend, kidnapped daughter to 105 years

Pictured is Zenas Whitaker, Zamaya's father. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)
Pictured is Zenas Whitaker, Zamaya's father. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)(Texas Department of Public Safety)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 12:19 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY Texas (KTRE) - On Wednesday, a Shelby County jury sentenced the man who brutally beat his ex-girlfriend with a baseball bat and then kidnapped their 2-year-old daughter in July of 2020 to a total of 105 years in prison.

According to a press release from the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, Zenas Montre Whitaker went to trial for charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault.

After deliberating for a little more than an hour, the jury convicted Whitaker of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping. They found him not guilty of the aggravated sexual assault charge.

Then during the punishment phase of the trial, the jury heard testimony about Whitaker’s criminal history. They sentenced him to 60 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison and a fine of $10,000 for the aggravated assault charge and 45 years for the aggravated kidnapping.

Whitaker will serve his prison sentences concurrently, or at the same time.

On July 7, 2020, Whitaker broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and started beating her with an aluminum bat with the end broken off, which created jagged edges on its fat end, the press release stated. Whitaker also bit and kicked the woman.

“She was in the home with five children, all under the age of 6, and all of this occurred with the children in the room watching,” the press release stated. “The photos of the crime scene were very graphic as there was blood everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls, on the furniture, and even on some of the children.”

Whitaker testified that after beating his ex-girlfriend, he took Zamaya, their then-2-year-old daughter, and the baseball bat and headed to Nacogdoches County, where he had lived most of his life, the press release stated.

“He further testified he left the baby’s mother there, believing she was not going to live, and knowing that he had also left four children there with her under the age of 6, one of them being an infant,” the press release stated. “The victim reported that he had taken her cell phone which prevented her from being able to call for help.”

Whitaker testified that while he was driving through the Martinsville area, he threw his and the victim’s phones out the window in an effort to keep law enforcement from tracking him, the press release stated.

According to the press release the Center Police Department reached out to law enforcement agencies in Nacogdoches County, and the Texas Department of Public Safety issued an Amber Alert for Zamaya. The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office, the Nacogdoches Police Department, the Texas Rangers, and the FBI all helped with the search for the child and Whitaker.

“Whitaker was located in Cherokee County, Texas,” the press release stated. “When the Nacogdoches County SWAT team had the home surrounded where they believed Whitaker to be, he came out of the home after they requested on a bullhorn that he surrender.

The child was returned to her mother’s family as her mother was in the hospital being treated for the severe beating she had taken at the hands of Whitaker.”

Pictured is 2-year-old Zamaya Whitaker. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)
Pictured is 2-year-old Zamaya Whitaker. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)(Texas Department of Public Safety)

Shelby County DA Karren Price presented evidence that a few weeks before the beating occurred, Whitaker sent multiple threatening texts to his ex-girlfriend to the extent that it was obvious he was going to try to kill her, the press release stated.

“Both Ms. Price and [Assistant DA Linda] Russell presented evidence that indicated Whitaker had been in trouble many times because of his violent nature,” the press release stated. “In fact, he was only 11 years old when he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

In the years that followed, Whitaker got in trouble with the law in Nacogdoches County o numerous occasions, the press release stated. He was convicted of several crimes, including assaults.

“Ms. Price told the jury that Shelby County would not tolerate this type of behavior in our community and that we were going to do something about it,” the press release stated. “She also said that law enforcement had done their job, her office had done theirs, and that the efforts had been made by all up to this point, and now, the outcome of those efforts was in the hands of the jury.”

In the press release, Price praised the efforts of the Center Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, the Nacogdoches Sheriff’s Office, and Police Department, the Texas Rangers, and the FBI and their ability to all work together to try to protect the citizens of Shelby County.

Previous stories: 2-year-old, Zamya Whitaker, found safe in Cherokee County

DPS issues Amber Alert for missing 2-year-old girl considered endangered

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