Man convicted in transgender woman's murder sentenced to life in prison

Published: Dec. 18, 2015 at 2:45 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2015 at 8:42 PM CST
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Tyrone Underwood (Source: Tyler Police Department)
Tyrone Underwood (Source: Tyler Police Department)

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A man convicted in the death of a transgender woman was sentenced to life in prison Friday by a Smith County jury.

Carlton Champion Jr., 21, was also issued a $10,000 fine just one day after the former football player at Texas College, was convicted of fatally shooting Ty Underwood, 24, whose body was found in a crashed car in Tyler.

The sentencing phase began Friday in Champion's trial, with closing arguments given during the afternoon.

Only the prosecution made an opening statement this morning. They called two witnesses starting with Investigator Jamie Tarrant. He said Champion was on felony probation up until he was arrested in this case. That probation was for an unauthorized use of a vehicle charge.

They then called Yolanda Ford Underwood, Ty's mother. She said Ty was "a pretty good kid" and "always honest." She said her first though when she heard about Ty's death was "I was praying to God it wasn't true. Not my baby." At one point she looked at Champion and said "he cared about you."

The defense called Ms. Johnson, Champion's cousin who said that she never thought he could do something like this. "I believe Carlton did this out of anger," she explained.

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.

Judge Christi Kennedy dismissed everyone around 10:30 a.m. Court resumed at 1:30 p.m.

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