Teen suspects laugh and talk at court hearing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A witness saw a group of juveniles approach Nashville musician Kyle Yorlets with a gun just before he was fatally shot, according to the lead detective in the case.

“He actually saw them go up to the victim and saw the gun being held out and heard a shot,” Detective Melody Saxon said Thursday during a hearing in juvenile court. After the neighbor ducked down, Saxon said, he heard another shot.

Saxon’s testimony during a detention hearing for three of the five juvenile suspects shed more light on investigators’ understanding of what happened to Yorlets. The three suspects sat in the front row, talking and laughing loud enough that the magistrate eventually asked them to leave.

Saxon said Yorlets’ neighbor was washing dishes and looking out his back window when he saw two or three youths approach Yorlets. Another witness said she saw five youths in the area shortly before she heard gunshots.

More: 5 juveniles, including 12-year-old-girl, charged with homicide in musician’s death

Many questions surrounding the shooting remain.

Police are still testing two stolen guns seized in the case for DNA and fingerprints. Three of the five suspects have spoken to police, although parts of their statements have been contradictory. 

Prosecutors have asked to try all five suspects, ages 12 to 16, as adults. A transfer hearing to consider that request has not been scheduled and is likely months away. The suspects remain in custody.

Yorlets was standing outside his home on the afternoon of Feb. 7 when he was fatally shot. Saxon said that, based on the young suspects’ statements, they approached Yorlets to rob him and then he was shot after he refused to hand over his keys.

The five suspects were arrested hours later at a West Nashville Walmart.

Police said one of the suspects tossed a loaded gun into the front seat of a patrol car after they were arrested. A suspect also told investigators where to find a second gun inside the Walmart.

“And no one called the police?” Assistant District Attorney Lindsey Moreland asked.

“No,” Saxon answered.

“And all five of them were together?” Moreland asked.

“Yes,” Saxon answered.

At one point during Saxon’s testimony, when she referred to one of the three suspects in the courtroom, the boy responded, softly saying “better not say my name” more than once.

The suspects talked to each other, laughed and turned around throughout the hearing. At multiple points their lawyers and court staff told them to be quiet.

Toward the end of the hearing, Juvenile Court Magistrate Mike O’Neil told court staff to take the three suspects back to detention because of their behavior.

“I don’t think they’re very interested,” O’Neil said. “They’ve been sitting there like they’ve been sitting on the playground.”

After the hearing, defense attorney Michie Gibson, who is representing one of the suspects, said their behavior in court reflected their age.

“We’re dealing with children and they might not appreciate or understand the seriousness of what happened,” Gibson said.

Gibson added that the evidence presented in court Thursday was “nothing conclusive.” He said there was no proof his client actually participated in the shooting.

Follow Adam Tamburin on Twitter: @tamburintweets.

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