They’d seen the mugshots. But Kyle Yorlets’ family wasn’t prepared for what they’d encounter inside a juvenile courtroom in Nashville the first time they came face-to-face with two of the five youngsters accused of killing him.
The imagination fills any vacuum. And the Yorlets had nearly a year to wonder about the five 12 to 16-year-old kids who confronted their 24-year-old aspiring-musician son in an alley outside his Nashville home one February afternoon last year.
Then came the moment the teens — a girl and a boy — appeared inside the courtroom last month for hearings on whether they should be tried as adults in Kyle’s homicide.
“She was tiny, so tiny. She probably weighed 80 pounds.
What went through my mind was, there is no way that Kyle would’ve ever thought this was a threat in any way, shape or form. I was like, there’s no way he would’ve saw this child and thought, ‘They’re going to hurt me.
Yet during the hearing, harmless-looking 15-year-old Diamond Lewis testified to being the first of her group to approach Kyle as he pulled up to the rear of his rental house late in the afternoon of Feb. 7, 2019, in order to get ready for his dinner-time shift as a waiter.
When he refused, she testified she pulled the gun and forced him to hand over his wallet.
“We found out that the girl is the one who set up the robbery, had the gun, and admitted it in court. She did the armed robbery.
By initiating the robbery, Lewis touched off the senseless chain of events that ultimately cost Kyle his life, Larry Yorlets said. Under the law, it doesn’t matter whether she was the one who actually pulled the trigger, he added.
“I don’t think she admitted to setting it up,” Gibson said of his client’s testimony. “What she was doing was telling the truth and not trying to hide anything.
Gibson argued the totality of his client’s testimony that day demonstrates she should be rehabilitated in the juvenile justice system, rather than punished in adult court, because she didn’t participate in the actual shooting.
Lewis told the court that once she robbed Kyle of his wallet at gunpoint, she walked away, rejoining the rest of her group further up the alley.
She testified the second defendant at the hearings, Deccorius Wright, 16, took the gun and walked over to Kyle, perhaps to force him to hand over his car keys.
Lewis said she never heard the two shots ring out, one striking Kyle in the left arm, then burrowing deep into the side of his chest, shredding a lung and lodging in his heart.
Once again, they were taken aback, but not in the way they’d imagined.
“Also very small in stature.
“It was kind of shocking.
Whenever you looked at them, my initial thought was they look like they are 12. You expect thugs, I guess,” she said.
“I almost couldn’t believe it that they were as little as they were,” Kyle’s older brother, Jonathan Detman, said of the two oldest suspects. “I put myself in Kyle’s shoes, and I would’ve been the same way, like, ‘Who are these kids? Are they coming for help or something?’ My last thought would’ve been that they were there to take his life.
Despite the defendants’ childish looks, the Yorlets are fully backing the push by the Davidson County District Attorney’s office to transfer them to adult court. There, each would face possible life imprisonment for Kyle’s homicide.
In backing adult prosecution for both teens, the Yorlets pointed out that the latter part of Lewis’ testimony differed with the eye-witness account of at least one neighbor, who saw the entire group at the entrance to the short driveway and parking pad when the shots rang out. The family rejects the notion that Lewis didn’t at least hear the gunfire.
What happened next is not in dispute:
But by then, it was too late.
Moreover, there were other things they saw and heard in court that day that convinced them that only adult punishment — not juvenile rehabilitation — will bring justice for Kyle. Moving the case to adult court also would send a much-needed message in seemingly tourist-friendly Music City, they said.
The Yorlets pointed to the city’s seemingly turnstile juvenile system, a brazen detention center escape that allowed Wright to go free for almost three days, a long list of prior violations by both Lewis and Wright, and incidents of fighting and other infractions by both Wright and Lewis while in detention since the shooting.
Lewis’ family members flashed the girl a thumb’s up sign as she entered the courtroom, as if it were a sporting event, the Yorlets said. They said they overheard her attorney having to coax Lewis just to mumble an insincere-sounding apology to them from the witness stand.
Now I think they are to the point where I don’t think they can turn it around. I mean, they had to beg her to say, ‘I’m sorry’.
“That’s not correct,” Gibson said about needing to coax an apology from Lewis. “As far as her being reluctant to say that, I don’t recall that.
As for whether the apology was sincere or mumbled, Gibson was far less definitive.
“She mumbled her whole testimony.
I don’t disagree with that,” he said.
If we can’t help Diamond Lewis, we should do something else. We can’t do our jobs.
Even the father of one of Kyle’s bandmates testified at the hearing that the accused teens were precisely the type Kyle would have wanted to help, Gibson noted. The attorney added that the Yorlets’ original observations of the defendants’ shockingly child-like appearances are on point.
“I understand how they think, and I can’t blame them.”
It’s not a person.”
And that we’ll never be the same.”