Byron Black was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for a triple murder. According to court documents Byron Black would murder his girlfriend, Angela Clay, and her two daughters, Latoya, 9, and Lakeisha Clay, 6. Byron Black would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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The Defendant was the boyfriend of Angela Clay, who had separated from her husband, Bennie Clay, about a year before her death. Bennie Clay was the father of Latoya and Lakeisha. Bennie Clay testified that at the time of Angela Clay’s death, he and Angela were attempting to reconcile, but the Defendant was an obstacle to the reconciliation. He further testified that Angela began a relationship with the Defendant after their separation and that at times she was seeing both the Defendant and himself. In December, 1986, the Defendant and Bennie Clay had an altercation during a dispute over Angela. As Bennie Clay was returning to his car, the Defendant shot at him. One shot hit the car, another hit Clay in the right foot, and another shot hit him in the back of his left arm. The bullet that went through his left arm lodged under his collar bone. Clay testified that he started running up the street and the Defendant chased him, continuing to shoot. Clay was finally unable *171 to run any farther. He fell down, and the Defendant stood over him and had cocked the gun when Angela Clay ran up to the Defendant and pushed him away. Angela then took Bennie Clay to the hospital, where he remained for seven days. The Defendant pled guilty to the shooting and received the workhouse sentence, which included weekend furloughs.
On Friday afternoon around 5:30 p.m., March 25, 1988, the Defendant was released from the workhouse on a weekend furlough. He returned to the workhouse on the evening of Monday, March 28, at approximately 5:15 p.m. after the murders were committed, but before the bodies were discovered.
Angela and her two daughters were last seen Sunday evening around 11 p.m. Angela’s sister, Lenette Bell, had borrowed Angela’s car on Sunday. Angela was employed at Vanderbilt Hospital, where she worked from 1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Lenette Bell arranged to pick up Angela at the hospital at 10 p.m. When Lenette Bell arrived at the hospital, the Defendant was also waiting there for Angela. Angela’s children, who were with Lenette Bell while their mother was working, chose to ride with the Defendant and their mother from the hospital. The Defendant drove Angela and her two daughters to the home of Amelia Bell, the mother and grandmother of the victims. Ms. Bell testified that the Defendant left her house in his car, and that her daughter and granddaughters left her house in her daughter’s car about 10:20 p.m. Angela returned about 11 p.m. to pick up an iron she had forgotten. That was the last time Ms. Bell saw her daughter alive. Lenette Bell testified that Angela telephoned her at approximately 11:20 p.m. that evening. That was the last time any of the witnesses spoke to the deceased before her untimely death.
When Ms. Bell’s daughter failed to return the iron the next morning, she telephoned her daughter but got no answer. She continued to call Angela throughout the day but received no answer. She became concerned and asked another daughter to drive to Angela’s apartment. No one answered her knocks at the door. Ms. Bell made other telephone calls to try to locate her daughter and then went to her daughter’s apartment with Lenette Bell, but no one responded to their knocks on the door. All the shades were drawn and Angela’s car was parked outside of her apartment. It was then they decided to call the police.
The police arrived at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Monday evening, March 28, 1988, and found no signs of forced entry into the apartment; the door was locked. Officer James was able to open a window after prying off a bedroom window screen. All the lights were off. He shined a flashlight into a child’s room and saw a pool of blood on the bed and the body of a small child on the floor. He exited the room, and officers secured the scene.
Investigation revealed the bodies of Angela and her nine year old daughter, Latoya, in the master bedroom. Angela, who was lying in the bed, had apparently been shot once in the top of the head as she slept and was rendered unconscious immediately and died within minutes. Dr. Charles Harlan, Chief Medical Examiner for Davidson County, testified that she was probably shot from a distance of six to twelve inches and that her gunshot wound was the type usually caused by a large caliber bullet.
Latoya’s body was found partially on the bed and partially off the bed, wedged between the bed and a chest of drawers. She had been shot once through the neck and chest. Blood on her pillow and a bullet hole in the bedding indicated she had been lying on the bed when shot. Dr. Harlan testified that she was shot from a distance of greater than twenty-four inches from the skin surface. The bullet path and type of shot indicated that death was not instantaneous but likely occurred within three to ten minutes after her being shot. Bullet fragments were recovered from her left lung. Both victims were under the bedcovers when they were shot.
The body of Lakeisha, age six, was found in the second bedroom lying facedown on the floor next to her bed. She had been shot twice, once in the chest, once in the *172 pelvic area. Dr. Harlan testified that she had died from bleeding as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest. She was shot from a distance of six to twelve inches and died within five to thirty minutes after being shot. Abrasions on her arm indicated a bullet had grazed her as she sought to protect herself from the attacker. Bullet holes and blood stains on the bed indicated that she was lying in bed when shot and had moved from the bed to the floor after being shot. There were bloody finger marks down the rail running from the head of the bed to the foot of the bed. The size of the wounds and the absence of bullet casings indicated that a large caliber revolver had been used to kill the victims.
One projectile was collected from the pillow where Latoya was apparently lying at the time she was shot. Fragments of projectiles were collected from the wall above Angela’s head; others were collected from the mattress where Lakeisha was found.
The receiver from the kitchen telephone was found in the master bedroom. The telephone from the master bedroom was lying in the hallway between the two bedrooms. The Defendant’s fingerprints were the only prints recovered from the telephones. Two of his fingerprints were found on the phone in the hallway, and one was on the kitchen telephone receiver found in the master bedroom.
Angela Clay’s upstairs neighbors, Patricia Meacham and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Donzaloe Gardner, reported that between 1:00 and 1:30 a.m. on March 28 they had been awakened by four loud noises, two in quick succession followed by a pause of 30 seconds, then two more noises which “sounded like somebody had a hammer hitting on a countertop real hard.” The noises were so loud they both arose from bed and looked out the window but saw nothing. The noises seemed to come from the apartment below.
The evidence connecting the Defendant to the killings was circumstantial. There was evidence that the relationship between Angela and the Defendant had not been tranquil. For example, in October 1987, the Defendant had kicked in the front door of Angela’s apartment when she did not let him in. Sometime later he told Angela, “If I can’t have you, won’t nobody have you.” Three weeks before the murders, Angela’s neighbor, Patricia Meacham, had heard the Defendant knocking on the door and the window of Angela’s apartment and threatening to kick the door in. The Friday before the killings, Angela and the Defendant were seen arguing.
Around midnight the night the bodies were discovered, police went to the Metropolitan Workhouse to interview the Defendant. When informed by a detective that his girlfriend had been found murdered in her apartment, the Defendant looked shocked, distraught, was visibly upset, and began crying. When two other detectives entered the room, Defendant’s whole demeanor changed, the tears ceased, and he became “dull.” He stated that the last time he had seen Angela was Sunday, March 27, at about 10 p.m., when he dropped her off at her mother’s house after picking her up at work. He then went to Charlotte Waldon’s residence, where he had a late supper with her and other friends. He stated he left Ms. Waldon’s house about 11:30 p.m., drove to his mother’s apartment where he slept until 6:30 a.m. Monday. Defendant was cooperative and willingly turned over to the police what he claimed was his “only gun,” a nine shot .22 caliber Ruger he said he had used to shoot Bennie Clay.
Charlotte Waldon and several other witnesses testified that the Defendant came to Ms. Waldon’s at approximately 8:30 p.m., ate dinner, and left at approximately 9:30 p.m. He did not come back again that evening.
After further investigation, two formal taped statements were taken from the Defendant. The first interview was conducted at approximately 6:30 Tuesday morning, March 29. In the first statement the Defendant claimed that, after leaving Angela and the girls at Angela’s mother’s house, he had gone straight to his mother’s house, where he remained the rest of the night.
The second interview was conducted at approximately ten o’clock the same morning *173 with Defendant’s attorney present. In his second statement, the Defendant said that he dropped off Angela and her two children at her mother’s house. He then stated that he went to Angela’s apartment later Sunday night, he did not recall the exact time, and she wasn’t there. He sat out in front of the apartment in his car for a short period of time and then left. He returned a second time, saw Angela’s car and, finding the door open, went inside the apartment. The Defendant stated, “I went inside and I saw all of them in there and I panicked.” He described seeing Angela, Latoya and Lakeisha lying dead in their beds with the covers over them. He said he “may have” touched the telephone while he was in the apartment. He noticed that the telephones had been thrown on the floor and remembered that he was afraid to touch them because he might get his fingerprints on them. He said he had not sought assistance for the victims because “I didn’t want to get involved.” Locking the door, he then left the apartment and drove back to his mother’s house. There, although he had just discovered his girlfriend and her children dead, in his own words, “I got me at least seven or eight hours of sleep on my mother’s couch.” The Defendant did not report the deaths or tell anyone what he had seen that night until the interview Tuesday morning.
During the interview he suggested that Bennie Clay was the murderer. Later, when police officers informed the Defendant that they could determine the caliber of the weapon used to shoot Bennie Clay, the Defendant said that he had shot Clay with a .357 Magnum, not a .22 caliber, and had thrown the weapon into the Cumberland River. He had previously told an acquaintance he had sold the gun used to shoot Bennie Clay. The same acquaintance also testified that he had seen the Defendant with a large caliber pistol in his possession four or five years before.
Bennie Clay agreed to have the bullet surgically removed from his shoulder. Clay testified that the gun used by the Defendant to shoot him had looked like a “big caliber pistol” or revolver. The slug removed from Clay was a .44 caliber bullet. Significantly, a firearms expert from the TBI testified that the.44 caliber bullet recovered from Latoya’s pillow, the .44 caliber bullet removed from Lakeisha’s body, a bullet fragment from the automobile driven by Bennie Clay the day the Defendant shot him, and the .44 caliber bullet removed from Bennie Clay’s body had all been fired from the same weapon.
The Defendant’s defense was that of alibi. His mother and nephew testified to the effect that the night the victims were murdered, the Defendant had come to his mother’s home around 11 p.m. and had remained there all night.
At the sentencing hearing the Defendant presented the testimony of a former teacher, friends, his mother, former wife, aunt and siblings that he had been a good student, a good father, a good provider, a responsible, polite, friendly, helpful, and nonviolent person whom they would support if he was given a life sentence. His brother-in-law, a minister, testified about the Defendant’s religious conversion. The psychological co-ordinator at the Metro Sheriff’s Department testified that Defendant was a “model inmate.”