Trial to begin Monday in Leland woman’s killing

Updated: Jan. 26, 2018 at 5:03 PM EST
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Nathan Elisha Tyler Jr. (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)
Nathan Elisha Tyler Jr. (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)
Turner (left) and Williams (right) (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)
Turner (left) and Williams (right) (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - "I only heard the shot." That's what a man charged in the 2015 murder of a Leland woman claimed in a handwritten letter sent to the court just over a year after his arrest.

Nathan Elisha Tyler Jr., 45, is charged with murder, first-degree kidnapping, and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the slaying of Alicia Marie Deans, whose decomposing body was found partially submerged in water in the woods off John Coleman Road in Clarendon on May 13, 2015, according to court documents.

An autopsy revealed she was fatally shot in the back of head.

Deans was reported missing to the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office on April 28, 2015. She was believed to be heading to Whiteville to visit Tyler Jr.'s son, Nathan Elisha Tyler III.

On May 12, 2015, two weeks after Deans was reported missing, Kayla Leigh-Ann Turner called investigators and told them she was with Deans the night she was killed and would take them to where her body was, court documents state.

"Kayla stated to (detectives) that she was at Nathan's house with Alicia and that Michael Williams came into the house and robbed them and tied them up using belts," a detective wrote in the court document. "Kayla stated that Nathan came home and that they all left in Alicia's car and that they drove to a location where a tobacco field was and drove to the back of it."

After locating Deans' body the next day, detectives tracked down Williams, who was at a neighbor's house. During an interview, Williams admitted his involvement in Deans' killing and said

The next day, detectives interviewed Tyler Jr. while he was in jail in Horry County, SC, on unrelated charges.

"Mr. Tyler admitted to me his involvement in this case and told me where had burnt Alicia's car," the detective wrote in the document. Her Ford Taurus was found just miles from Tyler Jr.'s Clarendon home.

However, Tyler Jr. apparently backtracked on his admission in his Sept. 7, 2016 letter to the court, and claimed any statements or comments made in interviews with police were made without an attorney present and under duress.

In the letter, he alleges after returning home from running errands, he found Deans and Turner tied up on the floor and Williams, who he identifies as Turner's boyfriend, ransacking his house.

"Michael Williams came in from another room, put a gun to my back, demanded money of which I had none," Tyler Jr. wrote. "(He) then ordered everyone outside. He locked Alicia Deans in the trunk of the car."

Tyler Jr. then wrote Williams ordered him at gunpoint to drive down John Colman Road.

"Michael Williams unlocked the trunk, took Kayla and Alicia into the woods. Kayla came back to the car after a minute or so. Shortly after there was a gun shot in the woods," Tyler Jr. wrote. "Michael Williams came back to the car, told me to drive back to my house and that if I said anything about what happened he would kill my son."

"I did not see him shoot Alicia, I only heard the shot from inside the car," he added. "Kayla and Michael are lieing (sic) about any involvement of myself."

Williams, 33, and Turner, 21, who are also charged with murder, first-degree kidnapping, and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the case, are expected to testify against Tyler Jr. in his trial, which is scheduled for Monday, a spokesperson for the Columbus County District Attorney's Office said Friday. Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday.

Tyler III has never been charged in the case.

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