Murder suspect ‘made jail call about bullets’

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A TEENAGER accused of killing two former Yorkshire university students made a phone call from prison saying police had found bullet casings which could implicate him, a court heard.

During the telephone call Shawn Tyson, 17, said police had found casings connected to the fatal shootings of Britons James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25.

The friends were gunned down in the impoverished Newtown area of the city of Sarasota in April last year, while holidaying with Mr Cooper’s family.

After a night out drinking, they stumbled into a run-down public housing project known as The Courts.

The men were found shirtless and with their trousers round their thighs after being shot several times.

Tyson, 17, denies two counts of first-degree murder. If convicted he faces life in jail without parole.

The court yesterday heard a call made by Tyson from Sarasota County Jail, recorded by police.

In the conversation, which was played to the jury, the then 16-year-old said: “Somebody say they saw me – they say they found the bullets.”

Detective John Todd told the court there could have been a “thousand different reasons” why Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper were found with their trousers pulled down.

But he added: “In this case, all the evidence pointed to an attempted robbery.”

Detective Anthony Defrancisco told the court he had seen 14 similar cases involving victims’ trousers being pulled down.

The court also heard that Tyson told friend Marvin Gaines that he had killed Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, Warwick.

John Todd, lead detective in the case, was asked by prosecutor Karen Fraivillig: “Did Marvin Gaines also say that Shawn Tyson told him, ‘I killed those two guys, you know those two bodies back there, I did that’?”

The detective said: “He said that Tyson escorted him into the apartment so that nobody else could hear and told him that he killed the two people.”

The court heard that Mr Gaines told police Tyson hid the gun under his house. then Mr Gaines had passed it to another friend.

Mr Gaines later led police to seven bullet casings buried in his yard.

At the opening of the trial in Sarasota, the court heard that as Tyson allegedly tried to rob them, the young men begged to be let go and return home.

He allegedly later boasted to a friend that he tried to rob them, then when they said they had no money he shot them.

Prosecutor Ed Brodsky said Tyson told one witness he and another male saw the two men as they walked by and they decided to rob them.

“When Shawn Tyson ... confronts the victims, they plead with Shawn Tyson to let them go, that they were drunk and that they were just trying to find their way home.

“They then tell Shawn Tyson that they don’t have any money to give him.”

Both men were found with their wallets, each containing a little over $60.

Defence lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer said few people had been honest with police in the case, and some had been offered plea deals, some had been threatened, and others given benefits to encourage them to testify for the prosecution.

The jury has also heard that two witnesses, Wanda Farrior and Roger Shavers, who claim to have seen Tyson climb into his bedroom window after the shooting, were moved out of the area by police.

The case continues.