For six months 15-year-old Tyrone White sat in a jail cell awaiting trial for a crime he swears he didn’t commit.
For 23 hours every day he stayed in the cell with another teen. He was allowed out for 60 minutes each day. For 30 minutes he got to watch TV, and with the other half-hour he was allowed to call his family.
“It was like hell. For something I didn’t do,” White told the Review-Journal hours after he was released from jail.
Crying at times during the interview, White said, “I really thought nobody believed me and I was going to be there forever.”
On Thursday, Clark County prosecutors dismissed murder charges against White and Christian Shannon, 18.
Las Vegas police alleged the two fatally shot 16-year-old Randii Lennette Morrow on May 15 as she waited at a bus stop with her boyfriend. Investigators believed the motive for the shooting stemmed from a fight days earlier between White and Morrow’s boyfriend, Anthony Wright.
White and Shannon have adamantly denied any involvement in the shooting and passed a police-administered polygraph exam.
There also were credibility issues with Wright, the prosecution’s key witness. Wright at first said he didn’t know who the shooters were but changed his story weeks later after he had left Las Vegas for Louisiana.
Other witnesses could not identify White and Shannon during lineups.
Police said they still consider White and Shannon the main suspects in the case.
But defense attorneys Bob Draskovich and Julie Raye said police are only saying that because they don’t have any other real suspects.
The attorneys said they have found an eyewitness who said the shooting was done with a nickel-plated pistol by two bald Hispanic men driving a black Impala. Draskovich said Wright is a known gang member — something he has denied — and the shooting happened as a result of Wright owing a drug debt.
Raye said they have several witnesses who could provide an alibi for White on the night of the shooting.
One of the witnesses was Tynisha Reeves, the mother of White’s girlfriend. Reeves said White was at her home the night of the shooting. She told police White was outside of the residence at the time the shooting occurred, according to court documents.
Reeves told the Review-Journal that when she saw White later that night, he appeared calm — not like someone who was in a traumatic gunfight.
“If he did murder somebody, I wouldn’t put him back in the arms of my daughter,” Reeves said. “I can’t imagine him doing nothing. Even harming a fly.”
Prosecutors said Thursday they have checked out the alibis provided by White and Shannon and didn’t feel they were “ironclad.”
Raye said when she first met with White in jail, he offered to take a lie detector test, give his DNA and fingerprints, “anything to prove it wasn’t him.”
And when prosecutors offered to drop the murder charges if White would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, the teenager refused.
“Why should an innocent person take a deal? If you’re going to convict me of something I didn’t do, you might as well go all the way,” White said.
White said when he was released from jail about 10 a.m. Friday, “it didn’t feel real.”
He plans on staying away from bad influences and concentrating on going to school. He also wants to play football.
White said that before his arrest, he had done some “petty stuff,” which he described as stealing stuff from stores. But he said he knows that was wrong. “I should have been going to school more often.”
White’s grandfather, Willie Virgil, said he is elated the teenager is out of jail. Virgil said he plans on teaching his grandson to put his faith in God, “the only protector he will need.”
Virgil was also looking forward to cooking the meal White asked for when he was released: fried chicken, rice and beans.
White said he does fear that someone might come after him because police still consider him a suspect. But he plans on avoiding confrontation by moving and staying close to his family.
But, he said, all he can do is “put it in God’s hands.”
Attempts to contact Morrow’s family were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Draskovich and Raye did credit prosecutors and police for continuing to investigate the case after the arrests and for allowing the polygraph.
Review-Journal writer Michael Blasky contributed to this report. Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.