EXCLUSIVE: Parents outraged at decision to try man who killed their son as juvenile

For the first time, the parents who lost their son and his longtime girlfriend shared their struggle with Minnesota’s juvenile justice system, a system that they say failed their family.

Veronica and Jim Ford share their story with Alpha News reporter Liz Collin. (Alpha News)

A Dakota County jury found a Burnsville woman guilty of murder last month for drag racing her brother on Easter Sunday of 2021. That brother, Leon Bond, crashed into an innocent young couple and killed them both. Bond was 80 days shy of his 18th birthday when it happened.

For the first time, the parents who lost their son and his longtime girlfriend shared their struggle with Minnesota’s juvenile justice system, a system that they say failed their family.

Veronica and Jim Ford wish they weren’t a part of this conversation. They are living every parent’s worst nightmare.

“What’s it going to take? Clearly, the system is flawed,” Veronica said. “Dalton and Tayler deserve to have justice.”

“When it’s all said and done, we want to be sure we did everything,” Jim added.

Their grief has grown into frustration.

Dalton Ford, a driven young man

“Dalton, I always called him my rock. He never fell into that middle-child syndrome. He was just a solid person, and I could depend on him. He would show up to do anything for anybody,” his mom said.

A driven young man, from an early age, Dalton Ford knew what he wanted to do.

Dalton Ford and his girlfriend, Tayler Garza. (Photo provided to Alpha News)

“In middle school he discovered a passion for cars. He wanted and appreciated a super nice car. He worked super hard for it. He paid for his first car almost on his own,” Veronica said.

His parents said he recognized the responsibility that came with it.

After graduating from Dunwoody, Dalton became the youngest journeyman technician to ever work at one Twin Cities car dealer.

The crash

It was April 4 of 2021, the day after his grandfather’s funeral and Easter Sunday, when Dalton, 22, would make that fateful trip with his longtime girlfriend, Tayler Garza.

The two were graduates of Prescott High School in Wisconsin.

“They got in his CRV. They were going to go down to Caribou. They were probably going to hop in the CRV and head back over to Prescott. That was the plan. I’m sitting at my kitchen table at three in the afternoon writing thank-you cards for my dad’s funeral with my mother and my sister when I got the knock at the door,” Veronica said.

Dalton’s car was cut in half making a left turn onto County Road 42 in Burnsville.

A photo of the scene provided to Alpha News.

A brother and sister drag racing each other were to blame.

The State Patrol found Leon Bond, 17, was going 114 miles per hour five seconds before impact.

“I was like who drag races on Easter Sunday? Easter Sunday? Maybe I’m showing my age here, but you go out to a road where nobody is so you don’t hurt anybody. Who does that?” Jim said.

Bond’s sister, Camille Dennis-Bond, 19, immediately blamed the victims, according to Dalton’s parents.

“It’s Camille, the sister, standing on the side of the road with absolutely no remorse saying how she’s going to kill Tayler. ‘That stupid white bitch better be dead. If she’s not I’m going to kill her.’ And she said it three times,” Jim said.

For her role, Camille now faces more than 12 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of murder.

Her brother, Leon, faces less than two because retiring Dakota County Judge Joseph Carter ruled against certifying Leon as an adult for the crimes.

“He was 80 days shy of being 18 and there was history involved, too,” Veronica said.

“They told us from the start he was on their grid,” Jim added.

The Fords admit they were naïve to think Leon would be charged as an adult in this case.

“That’s what really angers us, the cavalier attitude of juvenile jurisdiction down there at Dakota County, after all the time and effort the police put into that case,” Jim said.

Troubled past

A trail of documents describes Leon’s troubled past, including serious threats he made to an educator at Burnsville High School in 2018.

“In there it talks about him threatening to kill the dean of students with a knife. He was going to kill him with a gun. He said it three times,” Veronica said.

Bond suffered a dislocated shoulder in a scuffle with the staff member. Bond’s family sued the district for the incident and lost.

Just months before the deadly drag race, Camille and Leon were in another crash she caused. Documents say Leon was a passenger when he got out to punch the victim they hit with Camille’s car.

Leon also had a probation officer at the time he killed Dalton and Tayler.

“He was on probation for assault and theft,” Veronica said.

This past spring, Judge Carter detailed his decision not to certify Bond as an adult.

The paperwork says Leon’s probation officer disagreed with a forensic psychologist who said programming as a juvenile would “not be long enough to have a meaningful effect on rehabilitating him.”

The Fords said that probation officer didn’t disclose much of Bond’s troubling behavior from high school to a panel that makes a recommendation to the judge on what to do.

“Julie Eckstrom compiled a report on Leon, his whole history. She gives the report to the state forensic psychologist, Dr. Aiken. She’s supposed to give the same report to the extended juvenile jurisdiction panel, which is pretty jaw dropping,” Jim said.

Alpha News reached out for clarification and comment from Minnesota’s court system. A spokesperson said “no further information can be provided other than what’s publicly accessible in the case.” Dakota County did not respond to questions about Eckstrom.

According to court transcripts, Eckstrom admitted she did not disclose all of Bond’s threatening and assaultive behavior to the panel, which voted 4-3 to try Bond as a juvenile. The judge considers that vote in his final ruling. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision to deny adult certification.

The Fords said the issue of not disclosing Bond’s past behavior to the panel never came up in the appeals case.

“She wanted that EJJ panel to come to a certain conclusion, obviously,” Veronica said.

Leon Bond is expected to go to trial this month.

As it stands, he could be released between six and 21 months after starting a reform program.

“We’ve said if we were still in the same spot knowing everyone did what they were supposed to do, we’d have to be good,” Veronica said. “We’d have to accept it, but Dalton and Tayler deserved to have people do their job.”


Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.