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Sierra Roundtree was full of life and kind, her mother Jen Roundtree said. Photo courtesy of Agustin Gonzalez.

In a March report, Fort Worth police describe frantic attempts to save the life of Sierra Roundtree. An unnamed resident of Cameron Creek Apartments in southwest Fort Worth saw the young mother hanging by the neck from a private third-floor balcony. After yelling, “Don’t do it!,” the resident ran inside to call 911.

The report indicates that police and first responders made multiple attempts to enter the apartment forcibly to save Sierra before her husband, Cory Osborne, let the officers inside.

“Cory said that Sierra was intoxicated and told her she could sleep in the bedroom,” the report reads. She “fell asleep in the living room,” next to the balcony.

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Sierra’s mother, Jen Roundtree, learned of her daughter’s suicide attempt, then frantically spoke to police and county officials about establishing a protective order to keep Osborne from the 2-year-old daughter he shared with Sierra in their apartment.

The mother alleges that Osborne routinely abused Sierra and their daughter. Jen believes his alleged history of violence — along with inaction by local law enforcement — led to Sierra’s decision to end her life. Sierra struggled with depression and bipolar disorder, Jen said, but she was never suicidal.

Doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital took Sierra off life support 11 days after her attempt. She was 25.

Based on records from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Osborne was arrested in mid-2019 for assaulting and strangulating Sierra. The Class A misdemeanor was lowered by Dallas County prosecutors to a Class C offense — the lowest level in Texas. The day after Sierra died, Jen emailed the Dallas district attorney’s office to vent her anger at the prosecutors who allegedly failed to take the offense seriously.

“I would really like to know who was responsible for pleading this case down to a simple assault,” Jen wrote. “The victim, my daughter, is now dead. The police had been out to her house several times and still no one arrested this monster. He sat in the apartment for TEN MINUTES while neighbors, police, and EMTs were beating on the door. Do you know where my beautiful daughter was? Hanging by her neck from the back porch.”

The Dallas district attorney’s office did not return my requests for comment, and when I called Osborne, he hung up on me after I mentioned I was working on a story about Sierra Roundtree.

Intimate partner violence will affect one in three women in Tarrant County at some point in their lives, according to the local district attorney’s office. The pandemic saw a spike in the number of deaths tied to domestic violence, based on findings by the Texas Council on Domestic Violence, a nonprofit coalition dedicated to creating safer communities.

Sierra’s friend, Jim Kavanagh, told me that Sierra called him several times over the course of their five-year friendship to recount interactions with police.

“A couple of months before she died, [Osborne] strangled her so hard that she passed out,” Kavanagh alleges. She added that Osborne would “wait for her to pass out and strangle her again.”

Jen began investigating Osborne’s interactions with law enforcement in the weeks after her daughter’s death. Over the past two years, police in Fort Worth and Weatherford, two areas where Sierra lived, reported several incidents of alleged domestic abuse by Osborne against Sierra but never arrested him. Jen said Fort Worth police have taken no responsibility for failing to protect her daughter. Jen shared with me a recent email exchange she had with a Parker County sheriff’s department officer who, rather than address her concerns, replied with a boilerplate description of how to file a complaint.

The grandmother now fears for her granddaughter’s life.

“I’m scared to death,” she told me. “I’m concerned for my grandbaby.”

The warning signs erupted in January. That’s when a 911 call alerted law enforcement of possible domestic abuse at Sierra’s Cameron Creek residence.

“Fort Worth police department,” the operator answers. “What’s the address you’re calling from?”

The caller, a neighbor, then tells the operator that Sierra and Osborne are arguing.

“He is saying he is going to hit her,” the caller says. “She was yelling for help. I think he slammed her against the wall. They have a little girl, and I can hear her crying.”

A Fort Worth police incident report confirms that three officers — listed by last names only as Davachi, Johnson, and Jorgensen — arrived on scene shortly after, but no details of the interactions between law enforcement and Osborne and Sierra were recorded. Jen provided me with a screenshot of Sierra’s text message conversation the following day with her younger sister, who will remain anonymous to protect her privacy.

 

Sierra: The cops showed up at my house.

 

Sister: What. Why?

 

Sierra: I guess a neighbor heard Cory beating me.

 

Sister: Did they arrest him?

 

Sierra: No.

 

Referring to the above incident, a Fort Worth police spokesperson said in an email that officers spoke with Sierra at length and gathered information about the alleged assault.

“Officers explained to Mrs. Roundtree that the main priority for officers is to ensure the safety of herself and her child,” the spokesperson said. “All occupants of the apartment then exited the apartment and walked into the breezeway. Officers were able to observe Mrs. Roundtree, Cory, and the young child. Officers did not observe any injuries on either party, nor did Mrs. Roundtree inform anyone that a physical altercation may have occurred. Officers did verify that Mrs. Roundtree felt safe with Cory remaining at the apartment.”

Kavanagh said Sierra would call him after every police interaction, which he said totaled more than a handful. He believes that having an alleged abuser in her home likely made her reluctant to make an outcry to police, especially after she had seen police let her husband off repeatedly.

Parker County law enforcement documented two possible incidents of domestic abuse by Osborne against Sierra that did not result in arrests. On April 18, 2019, unnamed Weatherford police officers were dispatched to a Weatherford RaceTrac to respond to a 911 call by Sierra. Based on the report, Sierra said her nails were broken from defending herself from Osborne and that Osborne had punched and choked her shortly before she fled to the convenience store. The officers noted marks on Sierra and busted nails but, for reasons that are unclear from the report, declined to arrest Osborne.

Kavanagh witnessed the officers’ interactions with Osborne and Sierra at the RaceTrac. Kavanagh said Osborne played up his short stint in the Navy while describing his wife as an alcoholic with mental health problems.

The officers “were so against her,” Kavanagh said. “They told me, ‘Why are you interfering with this situation?’ I said, ‘The girl is getting abused. Shouldn’t you be focused on that?’ ”

Ten days later, Parker County sheriff deputies responded to a domestic disturbance at a Weatherford apartment where Sierra lived at the time.

“Sergeant Barnes and I arrived on scene and made contact with the complainant, Sierra Roundtree,” the report reads. “I asked Sierra what happened, and she told me that she and [Osborne] were arguing. He grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the wall. Roundtree said she got her phone and called 911 and left the scene. I saw in the living room broken glass.”

Osborne told the officers that Sierra had been drinking.

“Due to conflicting stories and lack of evidence, no arrests were made,” the report concludes.

The Parker County sheriff’s department did not respond to my requests for comment.

Kavanagh said he often wonders if he could have saved Sierra’s life by intervening in some way. A few days before the attempted suicide that ultimately led to her death, he said they argued. Kavanagh voiced his frustration over Sierra’s refusal to leave Osborne. Kavanagh said if he had known that was the last time he would see his friend, he would have been more conciliatory toward her.

Although Sierra was critical of her ability to mother her 2-year-old, she loved her daughter deeply, Kavanagh said.

He scrolled through several videos of the mother and daughter together. In one clip, her daughter giddily laughs as she feeds a flock of ducks. Kavanagh said he hopes to one day see the little girl so he can tell her what a loving, kind, and talented mother she had.

Osborne “should have been found to be a habitual offender and put in jail for a long time,” Kavanagh said, his anguish turning to anger. “There were so many incidents before this that the police did not take seriously.”

Kavanagh recounted a conversation he had with Sierra in which she wondered how many women are out there who live in abusive relationships that no one knows about.

Jen said she cannot have closure until she knows the details of her daughter’s death, information that necessarily includes why law enforcement didn’t help her. Based on open records requests Jen shared with me, the Parker County sheriff’s department recently blocked her request for bodycam footage tied to the April 2019 RaceTrac incident. The mother said Fort Worth police never took the possibility that Osborne played a role in Sierra’s death seriously.

The Fort Worth police spokesperson said his department has zero tolerance for domestic violence or abuse and treats every domestic violence situation with great importance. Officers frequently refer victims to One Safe Place (1100 Hemphill St, 817-916-4323), where they receive immediate aid and resources.

As an organ donor, Sierra was able to save at least three lives, Jen said.

“Her heart went to someone in California,” the mother said. “I just hope that person can feel the kindness that Sierra always carried with her in her heart.”

3 COMMENTS

    • Sickening is an understatement. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceburg. I have several reports that prove officers confirmed physical violence towards my daughter, Sierra, but told Cory he could remain in the home (while she was still there!). I appreciate you taking the time to read about my daughter, and the consistant neglect and discrimination officers had towards her. It is important that we hold officers accountable in circumstances like this in order to prevent this from happening in the future.

  1. I think it’s right in line with how the police are. He didn’t have that bad of a record and spent enough time in the navy (that he failed) to bring it up. Now someone with a record never would receive treatment like that. They would be charged, most likely over charged and enhanced with a no contact order. Even if she had alcohol issues with mental issues my daughter deserved protection by police that claim “0” tolerance.

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