Crime

Mixed verdict in murder trial: ‘My heart breaks for his family,’ Deonn Carter’s mother says

Jurors reach a verdict in Tyquez Davis’ trial in the fatal shooting of Deonn Carter

The jury has has found Tyquez Darnell Davis guilty of felony murder in the fatal 2016 shooting of Deonn Carter. The jury deliberated about 6½ hours over two days before delivering the verdict about 1:45 p.m. Friday.
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The jury has has found Tyquez Darnell Davis guilty of felony murder in the fatal 2016 shooting of Deonn Carter. The jury deliberated about 6½ hours over two days before delivering the verdict about 1:45 p.m. Friday.

Jurors have found Tyquez Darnell Davis guilty of felony murder in the fatal 2016 shooting of Deonn Carter.

The jury deliberated about 6½ hours over two days before delivering the verdict about 10:45 a.m. Friday, finding the 20-year-old guilty of killing Carter while committing the felony of aggravated assault. He also was found guilty of aggravated assault, but not of malice or deliberate murder.

Defense attorney Jennifer Curry said the not guilty verdict on malice murder shows jurors did not believe Davis intended to kill Carter, who was shot in the leg before he died days later in the hospital.

The jury otherwise split on other charges Davis faced, finding him guilty of some but not others.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions right now, but I’m happy with the verdict,” Carter’s mother Suzette Ragland said afterward. “I don’t know much else to say about feelings, because it’s an up-down feeling.... It’s been rough. It’s been the worst time of my life.”

Asked what she wanted people to remember about her son, Ragland said, “That he loved everybody, no matter what. It didn’t matter your race, your background, your religion, or anything in that nature.”

Carter, 31, was autistic, with the mental capacity of an 18- or 19-year-old, a jovial optimism and remarkable memory that endeared him to public safety workers he met through his job at Columbus’ River Road Piggly Wiggly. They said he not only remembered their names, but their unit numbers and specialties.

His shooting and subsequent death was a shock to them, and they turned out in force for his funeral.

“Deonn was loved by so many people, and he was such a big part of this community, that I really feel like in this case something was taken away from us,” said prosecutor George Lipscomb. “We lost something special, and we can’t have it back, but we can at least have this closure with a guilty verdict.”

Judge Ron Mullins set Davis’ sentencing for 2 p.m. Thursday in his Government Center courtroom. Lipscomb said he’ll ask Mullins to sentence Davis to life without parole.

“There’s evidence that he broke into houses armed on a number of occasions, that he obviously murdered Mr. Carter. He seemed to express no remorse about that,” Lipscomb said. “And then a week after he shot Mr. Carter, he went to Alabama and robbed and shot another man, and bragged about it on Facebook. I just think he has no remorse for anything he’s done.”

Davis at times appeared to enjoy the attention he was getting, laughing and joking during his trial.

“It was atrocious,” said Lipscomb. “This was his time to be in the spotlight. He had been looking forward to it for a number of years. He thoroughly enjoyed himself.”

Carter’s mother said she was “very aggravated” by Davis’ courtroom antics.

“My heart breaks for his family, but it was like it was a joke to him,” she said, “and this was not a joking matter.”

Tyquez Davis Week2.jpg
Tyquez Davis waits for his trial to continue Wednesday, July 17, 2019 in Superior Court. Davis is charged with murder in the August 2016 death of Deonn Carter. Besides murder and aggravated assault, Davis is charged with 10 counts of burglary and two of auto theft. If convicted, he faces life in prison. Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

The evidence

Friday’s verdict ended a complicated case hinging on the sometimes conflicting testimony of two codefendants and on officers’ catching Davis with Carter’s cell phone, the only thing taken when Carter was robbed and shot Aug. 9, 2016, 11 days before he died in the hospital.

Two of the four codefendants testified they saw Davis shoot Carter, but their accounts differed on other details. Neither admitted to encouraging Davis to taunt and threaten Carter before robbing and shooting him in the back of the left knee as he tried to run away.

Carter had just gone to get the mail about 9:30 p.m. at the Parkside at Britt David apartments on Armour Road, where he lived with his mother. He was on his way back to their apartment when five men in a stolen Nissan Titan pickup passed him and circled back.

The codefendants who testified against Davis, Travarus Thomas and Quamaine Thomas, said Davis got out of the truck, put a pistol in Carter’s face, then shot Carter when Carter ran.

They said the group had been traveling south down Armour Road when Davis saw Carter and claimed to recognize him, prompting them to stop at the apartments. But witnesses who afterward came to Carter’s aid said he was in an area so dark they barely could see him. That anyone recognized him from Armour Road was unlikely.

When Curry pointed this out, Lipscomb said the suspects probably turned off Armour Road into the apartments for no reason other than to find something else to steal, during a summer crime spree that included two auto thefts, two shootings and multiple home burglaries.

“They were predators,” Lipsomb said.

He cited Ragland’s testimony that Carter told her the men who accosted him had threatened to “kick his a--,” and the one who took his cell phone had gold teeth.

Lipscomb showed jurors Facebook photos in which Davis had a gold grill over his teeth.

The prosecutor cited another Facebook post tying Davis to the Aug. 15, 2016, shooting of a Phenix City man who said he came home to find Davis and his cohorts breaking into his residence. The man pulled a gun, but it jammed, and one of the burglars shot him in the leg.

Davis afterward posted a Facebook video bragging that he shot the man.

Curry said that evidence was prejudicial, as Davis wasn’t on trial in the Phenix City shooting.

Unfair

Curry argued Davis didn’t get a fair trial because the jury heard evidence in several burglaries in which Davis was to be tried, before Lipscomb abruptly dropped most of those charges before closing arguments.

Besides murder and aggravated assault, Davis went to trial July 8 on 10 counts of burglary, two of auto theft and one of being a minor with a handgun.

On Wednesday, Lipscomb announced he would not pursue eight of the 10 burglaries, and instead focus on the charges of assault, murder, auto theft, two of the burglaries and the minor with a gun charge.

Curry told jurors their hearing evidence in burglaries Davis no longer was tried on prejudiced them: “You can’t unring that bell. It’s out there. You’ve heard about them,” she said in her closing argument.

She argued the evidence against Davis in Carter’s shooting was so scant that any of his codefendants could have shot Carter and pinned it on him.

“There’s no evidence he pulled the trigger other than the testimony of these two codefendants who are trying to save themselves,” she said of Travarus Daiquan Thomas and Quamaine Quinzell Thomas.

Those two suspects, who are not related, pleaded guilty last week to assault, and agreed to testify. Another suspect, Tauron Mykevious Stephney, 21, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, with no agreement to testify and no recommended sentence. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Those pleas left Davis and Dequoyae Devon Waldon, 25, still facing charges in Carter’s death. Waldon’s case was severed from Davis’, so he will be tried later.

The charges

Lipscomb’s opting to eliminate some of the charges jurors would weigh in their deliberations left the following offenses for Davis to face. Here’s the jury’s verdict on those:

  • He was found guilty of felony auto theft involving a silver 2014 Nissan Titan pickup taken Aug. 4, 2016, from 28th Street off Second Avenue, where the Smiths Station man who owned it was visiting a friend.
  • He was found not guilty of burglary for a break-in Aug. 15, 2016, in the 2500 block of Kingsridge Drive.
  • He was found not guilty of burglary for a break-in Aug. 15, 2016, in the 6000 block of Buxton Drive.
  • He was found guilty of felony auto theft involving a white 2012 Chevrolet Suburban taken Aug. 15, 2016, from what was then the Hughston Sports Medicine Hospital at 100 Frist Court, off Veterans Parkway, where the owner left the keys in the ignition. Lipscomb showed jurors surveillance footage of Davis walking around the Suburban and testing the doors before throwing a rock through a rear window and climbing inside.
  • He was found guilty of being a minor with a handgun, based on his arrest Aug. 18, 2016, when witnesses called police to report he was sitting on a porch on 25th Avenue, about 1 a.m., holding a shotgun. When they arrested him, officers discovered he also had a .22-caliber revolver.
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Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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