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Tyson Text Messages Used Against Him in Murder Trial


The prosecution used murder suspect Steve D. Tyson Jr.’s own words against him Friday, in the form of text messages, on day three of the trial in which he is charged with the murders of two people in a gang shootout near Coki beach.

After spending the morning touring the crime scene, the jury spent the first part of the afternoon hearing rebuttal witness Frederico Perez answer questions about incriminating text messages he received from Tyson shortly after the shooting.

Tyson, 22, whose trial began April 14 in Superior Court in St. Thomas, faces one count of first-degree murder, one count of felony murder, one count of reckless endangerment, and three counts of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to the deaths of Liz Marie Chaparro and Shaheel Joseph on July 12, 2010.

Perez, a V.I. Lottery enforcement agent who knew Tyson when they worked together at Domino gas station in Smith Bay, said that around 10 p.m. on July 12 he and Tyson exchanged several text messages and a phone call in which they discussed Tyson’s alleged involvement in the crime.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Motylinski displayed a detailed transcript of the text message exchange, which Perez saved on his iPhone.

In one part of the exchange Perez wrote "stick to ur story dat dey fired on u first," and in another part Tyson allegedly wrote, "They goin want the gun."

"Did you know if Steve Tyson had a gun?" Motylinski asked Perez.

"I assumed he had a gun, based on the one text message," Perez replied.

This was important evidence for the prosecution’s case against Tyson, because it suggests that Tyson was in possession of and fired a gun on the day of the incident, an allegation Tyson strongly denied while on the stand Thursday.

Perez also said that during their phone call, which took place shortly after they started texting each other, Tyson told Perez "I [screwed] up."

Perez did not say what else Tyson told him in the phone call, because Judge Michael Dunstan cut off that line of questioning after a lengthy sidebar with attorneys.

Defense attorney Leonard Francis tried to undermine the allegations by asking Perez if he had ever seen Tyson with a gun when they worked together, or ever known him to carry a gun. Perez replied no to both questions.

Francis also got Perez to admit that Tyson said during the phone call, "they fired on me first."

This issue of who fired first in the shootout is important because Tyson has been charged with the murder of Chaparro, a 15-year-old tourist from Puerto Rico, though the prosecution does not believe that he actually shot her himself.

However, they do believe that Tyson started the gunfight in which she died. This would make him liable for whoever was killed as a result of his conduct, according to the principle of transferred intent.

The shootout, which took place during the funeral of Tyson’s friend Joseph Ferrari, involved at least three gunmen. Shell casings from .40-caliber, 9mm and .45-caliber weapons were found at the crime scene.

Prosecutors theorize that Tyson was carrying a 9mm, and used it to kill Joseph, who suffered a fatal 9mm gunshot wound to his head. Joseph’s body was found with a magazine loaded with .40-caliber ammunition in his pocket.

The bullet that killed Chaparro was fired from a .38 special, which likely belonged to a third, unknown gunman.

No guns were recovered from the scene, but a witness testified he saw an unknown person take a gun from Joseph’s body then flee the scene during the chaos that ensued after the shooting.

A second rebuttal witness further bolstered the prosecution’s case against Tyson, and provided evidence that he may have been in possession of the same 9mm weapon only two weeks earlier.

Detective Allen Lans of the VIPD testified that he collected several 9mm shell casings and observed Tyson’s red Honda at the scene of another crime in which Tyson was involved on June 30, 2010.

After Tyson became a suspect in the subsequent Coki Point shooting, Lans asked the VIPD’s ballistics technician to compare the casings from the two crime scenes to each other to see if they matched.

Tyson was convicted of third degree assault and possession of a firearm in December 2010 in relation to the June 2010 incident.

The trial continues Monday, with one final witness and closing arguments.


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