From the Titus County Sheriff’s Office
A little over two years ago, on a bitterly cold February morning, Johnathan Kyle Sanford, Antonio Jose Ponse, and Octavious Lamar Rhymes intruded into the home of Ernest Lee Ibarra, who was asleep in the bedroom of his home in Titus County.
The three intruders dragged Ibarra from his sleep and commenced to beat and pistol-whip him. Allegedly, one of the men also dragged Ibarra’s wife, Samantha Nicole Wohlford from the bed, tying her up to witness the violence. During the incident, Ibarra was removed from his home and was abducted. Titus County Sheriff’s Office then received a 911 call reporting the incident.
Titus County Deputies quickly responded and began to interview the alleged victim, Samantha Wohlford, whom they found at the house. While undertaking the initial response, deputies also began an intensive search for Ibarra having neither suspect names nor a suspect vehicle description
Through an intensive investigation, Titus County Sheriff Tim Ingram and other investigators were able to sniff out holes in Samantha Wohlford’s tearful descriptions of three masked and unknown intruders having abducted her husband, Ernie Ibarra. Through that investigation, Wohlford hours after the offense, finally revealed to Sheriff Ingram and investigators, that she knew the men who had kidnapped her husband. Wohlford also revealed that the suspects had been driving her own Chevy Equinox; information she had withheld until hours into the investigation and efforts to find her missing husband.
Through information learned from Wohlford, Ingram and his deputies were then able to locate suspects Johnathan Sanford and Jose Ponse as they were about to leave Titus County Regional Hospital and detain the two men. Further investigation led to one of the men admitting that they and one other male, later identified as Octavious Rhymes of Pittsburg, had taken Ibarra to a remote location southeast of the Lone Star Steel Mill in Camp County, where Ibarra had been taken into the woods and executed. One of the suspects led Sheriff Ingram and his investigators to the scene of the murder and the body of Ernest Lee Ibarra.
Sanford and Ponse were arrested that morning and the investigation continued at a brisk pace. Titus County Investigators ultimately found enough evidence to seek an arrest warrant for Aggravated Kidnapping and Murder stemming from Samantha Wohlford’s role in planning and the carrying out of her husband’s abduction and murder. Upon learning the identity of Octavious Lamar Rhymes, he too was arrested on the same charges.
Sanford and Ponse later plead guilty to both offenses and were each sentenced to 50 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Prison for each offense. Octavious Lamar Rhymes stood trial in Titus County for Aggravated Kidnapping and was sentenced to 23 years in prison and was later convicted of Murder in Camp County where he was sentenced to 75 years to be served consecutively on top of his 23-year sentence for the Aggravated Kidnapping. Samantha Nicole Wohlford was later convicted by a Titus County Jury when she stood trial for her involvement in the Aggravated Kidnapping of her husband
On Monday, September 11, 2017, A Camp County Jury was selected and Samantha Nicole Wohlford again stood trial, this time for her role in the murder of her husband Ernest Lee Ibarra.
On Thursday, September 14, the Camp County Jury found Samantha Wohlford guilty of the offense of Murder and levied a penalty of 99 years in prison for her part in the crime. In light of the evidence and facts of the offense, 276th District Judge Robert Rolston ordered that the 99-year sentence imposed by the Camp County Jury, to be served consecutively in addition to the 50-year sentence previously imposed on Wohlford in her Titus County Trial.
Titus County Sheriff Tim Ingram believes this final conviction to be a milestone marking our commitment to the surviving family members of Ernie Ibarra, in our efforts to seek justice for Ernie’s kidnapping and murder. We also would like to thank the steadfast effort put into trying this case by the Titus/Camp County Assistant District Attorney David Colley and District Attorney Chuck Bailey,
While Titus County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation, the venue for the Aggravated Kidnapping and Murder was in Titus and Camp Counties respectively.