UPDATE: 21-year-old Carlton Ray Champion, Jr. of Longview was charged Monday with last month's murder of a transgender woman named Tyrone Lee Underwood.
Tyler police investigators said they discovered during the course of the Underwood murder investigation that Champion was wanted out of Gregg County for a probation violation. Already suspecting his involvement, they arrested Champion on January 29 for the outstanding warrant while the investigation continued. Champion was transported to Gregg County Jail on the probation violation and held without bond until he was charged in the Underwood case.
Tyler Police Officer Don Martin said the department does not believe Underwood's murder was a hate crime, citing the fact that Champion allegedly knew she was genetically male for the duration of their relationship.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the murder arrest warrant, Champion became a suspect after Underwood's roommate, Darks, told police Underwood had been dating a man named "Carlton" for several weeks prior to her death. Though Darks had no details on the man, a police department employee who knew Underwood said the man played football for Texas College. It was at that ppointthat investigators connected the dots and confirmed that Champion, in fact, played football for the school.
The detectives said they interviewed Champion who confirmed that he had been communicating via a service called "Kik" with Underwood, who was going by "Tyra" on the service. They were able to search Champion's tablet computer and allegedly discovered communications between Champion and Underwood dating back to January 19, 2015.
"After reading the text between Champion, Jr. and Underwood, it was clear that the two have had sexual relations with each other," one detective wrote.
The investigation revealed a series of messages between Champion and Underwood on January 25 in which Underwood was angry with Champion for initially agreeing meet in person that night and then backing out.
Underwood sent a message saying she no longer wanted to see Champion, to which he allegedly responded: "That's how it is now, I will make it up."
Underwood replied "Carlton bro you saw me kiking you at 11:00 but you chose to be with whoever you was with and no you think you can just f*** with me when you want."
Champion allegedly responded by saying "Na f*** this I ain't done I'm on my way up there, where you gone be at?!?!?"
After that, there was allegedly some additional conversation about where and how they would meet, and whether it would be at Texas College or along a random street. The conversation makes it appear they were to meet on 25th street.
The investigators also obtained surveillance video allegedly depicting Champion exiting his dorm early on the morning of January 26 following the Kik conversation.
One of the detectives interviewed Champion's father and wrote "[Champion's father] stated that Carlton Jr. was meeting [Underwood] and thought [Underwood] was female. According to [Champion's father], Carlton Jr. was supposed to get some type of sexual favor from [Underwood] but realized [Underwood] was a male."
Additionally, investigators say Champion's jacket worn at the time of the murder tested positive for blood in a preliminary test that's too basic to determine whose blood was sampled.
Champion is being held in Gregg County on a $1,000,000 bond.
TYLER (KYTX) -- Tyler Police detectives are searching for clues after a transgender woman was shot to death early Monday morning. Police identified the victim as 24-year-old Tyrone Lee Underwood, but on social media and to her friends, she was known as Ty.
Investigators say she was found murdered early this morning on Twenty-Fourth Street in North Tyler.
"She was lovely, just a lovely person. Very real, down to earth person who didn't deserve this, did not deserve this at all," Underwood's roommate Coy Simmons said.
A woman called 911 saying a car had hit a telephone pole and that her children heard gunshots. Underwood's roommate believes Underwood was targeted because she is a transgender person.
"This has to be a hate crime, this has to be a hate crime, nothing else because that was an upstanding person with a good heart," Simmons said.
Tyler Police detectives do have a few leads, but nothing substantial enough to lead to a warrant.
"We will follow any leads that come in, we will follow them completely because this was a senseless murder," Detective Andy Erbaugh said.
Detective Erbaugh believes Underwood was in or near her car when shots were fired. She then tried to drive off, but the car got stuck in a grassy area.
"There were several indicators that there may be bullets fired at the vehicle but we just pulled the vehicles here at the police department and it will be searched pursuant to a search warrant," Erbaugh said.
Underwood's friends and family want closure.
"If you know anything, please come forward, if you know anyone who knows anything, please come forward. We don't know anything," Simmons said.
Underwood's friends tell us she works as a nursing assistant at a local nursing home and was recently accepted into the nursing program at Kilgore College in Longview.
Tyler-Smith County Crime Stoppers is offering a one thousand dollar reward for a tip that leads to the arrest and charges filed against the suspect.
If you know anything about this case, call the Tyler Police Department at (903) 531-1000 or Tyler-Smith County Crime Stoppers at (903) 597-2833.