Guilty verdict for man accused of killing transgender woman

Published: Dec. 17, 2015 at 6:49 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2015 at 1:02 AM CST
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Tyrone Underwood (Source: Tyler Police Department)
Tyrone Underwood (Source: Tyler Police Department)

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - After two hours of deliberations, an East Texas man was found guilty Thursday of killing a transgender woman. 

Carlton Champion Jr., 21, a former football player at Texas College, was convicted of fatally shooting Ty Underwood, 24, whose body was found in a crashed car in Tyler.

Throughout the trial, the state claimed text messages showed Underwood and Champion planned to meet the night she was killed.

After the verdict was read and Champion was being handcuffed by officers, he said, "I'll be back on the street." A woman replied, "Look forward to seeing you." Champion then said, "Okay, we'll see the look on you."

The state argued that the location, at 25th Street in Tyler, wasn't far from where Underwood's body was discovered. Attorneys also argued the pair was in a relationship and had been fighting.

The defense said that while the couple was planning to meet, there was nothing that proved that Carlton did actually meet Underwood.

In the closing arguments, the prosecution argued that Carlton Champion was the only one talking to Underwood the night she was killed.

"There's only one person who knew. The person who planned to meet on 25th. Only one person could have done it. Only one person did it. It's Carlton Champion," State Attorney Jacob Putman said.

In the last part of their case, the state showed interrogation video of Champion denying he killed Underwood.

The state said if Champion didn't kill Underwood, he would have said more.

The defense said the state didn't have enough evidence to clearly put Champion with Underwood the night of the murder.

While writing on the white board in the courtroom, Defense Attorney Melvin Thompson said, "What evidence do we have that Mr. Champion and Mr. Underwood actually met on 25th street? None."

They also said the police didn't investigate enough.

But the state stressed that they did have enough evidence.

The sentencing phase for Champion begins Friday. He could face life in prison.

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