(KRON) — A scandal involving racist text messages sent between Antioch Police Department officers tarnished a high-profile homicide case so severely that prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Ashton Montalvo, 32, and Deangelo Laraye Boone, 39, had been charged with felony arson and mutilation in 2022 after a young woman’s body was found burning along an Antioch walking trail.

The body of 25-year-old Mykaella Sharlman was burned beyond recognition.

On Wednesday, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office announced that the case against Montalvo and Boone will not proceed to trial. Antioch Police Department officers who were key investigators for the case are currently embroiled in a racist text messaging scandal that targeted Black suspects.

“In this case, the prosecution of Montalvo and Boone for mutilation of human remains and arson
on October 17, 2022, relied heavily on the investigative work of Antioch Police Officers who are
associated with racist text communications,” the DA’s Office wrote.

“After thoroughly reviewing the officers’ role in this case, applying relevant legal principles, and considering ethical responsibilities, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office no longer has confidence in the integrity of this prosecution,” the DA’s Office wrote.

The victim’s family reported Sharlman missing to Antioch police on October 16, 2022. Her body was in flames when it was found the following morning along a walking trail. Police used dental records and her jewelry to figure out the homicide victim’s identity.

“To take her body and put it in a garbage can and then burn her, is one of the most heinous crimes that you can ever commit,” the victim’s sister, Nicole Eason, previously told KRON4. Sharlman was an Oakland native and the youngest of seven siblings. She studied at Los Medanos College and dreamed of working as a hair and makeup stylist, her family said.

If new evidence is found in the future, the District Attorney’s Office could refile criminal charges and reinitiate legal action seeking justice for Sharlman, according to prosecutors.

“Our office extends our deepest sympathies to the family of Mykaella Sharlman and we aspire to
renew this prosecution if presented with the opportunity to do so,” the DA’s Office wrote.

The Antioch police racist text messaging bombshell has the potential to impact an unknown number of cases for defendants awaiting trial.

The texts were described by Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford as “racially abhorrent.” Officers were on-duty and using their personal cellphones when they exchanged text messages with language containing racial slurs. Officers referred to Black people as “zoo” and “circus” animals. 

The FBI and District Attorney’s Office are investigating 45 of the police department’s officers. The joint investigation was launched in March of 2022, and is still underway.

In April, District Attorney Diana Becton said her office is working to identify cases that are potentially compromised, such as the Sharlman homicide case. “Once we’ve identified those cases — and any overlapping conflicts — we will initiate a detailed review process for potential dismissal, resentencing, or the preservation of convictions,” Becton wrote.