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Parents of slain musician Kyle Yorlets confront two teens accused in his killing: ‘I was floored’

They’d seen the mugshots. But Kyle Yorletsfamily 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.

Eleven months to the day that Kyle was shot and killed, several members of his rural Carlisle family were about to come face-to-face with the oldest of the teens charged in his death.

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.

For the Yorlets, especially parents Larry and Deb, the moment was shocking — but not in the way they expected.

“The girl came out first, the 15-year-old girl,” Kyle’s mom, Deb Yorlets, recounted.

“She was tiny, so tiny. She probably weighed 80 pounds.

And so baby-faced. I was floored.

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.

On the stand, Lewis admitted to confronting Kyle with one of the two handguns police say the teens possessed. At first, Lewis said she simply asked Kyle for some money.

When he refused, she testified she pulled the gun and forced him to hand over his wallet.

“She admitted to setting up the robbery,” said Larry Yorlets, who found the girl’s testimony incredibly damning.

“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.

Lewis’ attorney, Fred ‘Michie’ Gibson Jr., disputed this interpretation in an interview with PennLive.

“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.

Kyle Yorlets

Wright didn’t testify at the hearing, and his attorney did not return PennLive’s calls seeking comment.

Still, Wright was in the courtroom, and the Yorlets family got a good look at him, too.

Once again, they were taken aback, but not in the way they’d imagined.

“Also very small in stature.

Anything but threatening,” Deb Yorlets said.

“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.

Instead, they saw kids. The three others accused in the case — a boy and two girls — are even younger.

They remain in the juvenile system, having been ruled incompetent for adult prosecution, at least for now. The Yorlets have yet to see any of them in person.

“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.

The assistant DA handling the case, Lindsey Moreland, did not return PennLive’s calls and emails seeking comment.

A written decision from the juvenile judge on whether to transfer Lewis and Wright to adult court could come any day.

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:

Kyle stumbled up the steps of his house and in through the back door, which remained slightly ajar after he entered. The neighbor called police, but when officers arrived, nothing seemed amiss.

Neither the neighbor nor the cops checked what was behind the cracked-open rear door of Kyle’s house. His roommate would find Kyle slumped over just inside the door.

But by then, it was too late.

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A view of the Nashville alley and parking pad where Kyle Yorlets was fatally shot in broad daylight on the afternoon of Feb. 7, 2019.

Joe Hermitt | jhermitt@pennlive.com

In fleeing the scene, his assailants also robbed a wounded Kyle of any slim chance he had of surviving the shooting, the Yorlets said.

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.

Then there’s what the Yorlets say they witnessed in court that went far beyond the defendants’ child-like appearances.

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Larry and Deb Yorlets talk about their son, Kyle one year after his death.

Kyle was shot and killed behind his house in Nashville on Feb. 7, 2019.

Jan. 21, 2020Joe Hermitt | jhermitt@pennlive.

com

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.

The Yorlets family also say they overheard Lewis’ family members and supporters joking and laughing about Mr. Yorlets’ cowboy boots during the hearing.

All of it leaves the Yorlets unconvinced their son’s accused killers, young as they are, can be rehabilitated.

“It’s like this weird combination of emotions, because we care about kids,” Deb Yorlets said.

“Obviously, we heard about their life, the hard upbringing. It’s just sad that nobody helped these kids.

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’.

Added Kyle’s older sister, Melissa Negley: “I don’t think they know what love is.”

Gibson disputed many of the Yorlets family’s observations concerning his client’s courtroom behavior and demeanor during his interview with PennLive.

“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.

The attorney remained adamant his client deserves the second chance the juvenile system would provide, rather than condemning the rest of her life in adult court.

“The purpose of juvenile court is not to punish,” Gibson said. “It’s to see if we can help the children.

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.

He insisted keeping Lewis in the juvenile system was the only way to turn around her young life.

“Believe me, my heart goes out to them,” Gibson said of the Yorlets family.

“I understand how they think, and I can’t blame them.”

What the Yorlets family believes above all is no one else should go what they’re going through.

They don’t want anyone else to get hurt – or worse. And they don’t want to see another family left to grapple with the unthinkable: Having a son and a brother taken away.

“It’s just this attitude of ‘whatever I want I’m going to get, whether I have to take it and no matter who I have to hurt to get it’,” Deb Yorlets said. “It’s just another obstacle to them.

It’s not a person.”

So near the end of the hearing, Deb Yorlets rose to correct the record.

She told the judge and the accused of all that was stolen that day. Things far more valuable than a wallet.

“I said, ‘my son was basically a door for God’s love to walk through’. I said how hard it was for our family to recover.

And that we’ll never be the same.”

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