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Family, friends try to make sense of stabbing death

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 4, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.
Updated July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.

Tyrel Richards, 20, of Victoria, was arrested and charged with the murder of Cynthia Shands, 17, of Victoria, on Saturday night.

Lily Martin was in her bedroom Saturday night when she looked out the window and saw police swarming the perimeter of her home.

"All I heard was, 'Get on the ground!'" Martin, 17, said, describing Victoria police officers yelling at Martin's neighbor, 20-year-old Tyrell Richards.

Richards, who lived in Martin's upstairs two-bedroom attic apartment at 1081/2N. Cameron St., had locked himself inside the home.

After police broke down the door at 6:15 p.m., Richards was arrested and charged with the stabbing murder of one of Martin's dearest friends, Cynthia Cole Shands, 17, of Victoria. Shands also lived in the upstairs apartment.

Richards has been in a relationship with the victim's sister, Heather Shands, and the two have a baby. No motive for the killing is known.

The investigation is ongoing, Victoria Police Detective James Poe said, and investigators have no other suspects at this time. Richards was being held at the Victoria County Jail on $1 million bond.

Martin said Shands was found dead in the bathtub, wrapped in bed sheets, with an unknown number of stab wounds on her body.

"She was like family to me. She may as well have been my blood," Martin said. "It came as as such a shock because we all knew Tyrell. He was our friend. We honestly do not know why he would do this to her. ... She was an amazing person. She was a beautiful person."

Shands lived in the apartment with her boyfriend Logan Cross, her brother, Anthony Shands, and his girlfriend, Ashley Summa, and their 11/21/2-year-old son, Shaden Shands.

Martin said Shands was sleeping in her bed when she was stabbed. She was alone in the house with Richards and Shaden.

She was discovered by her brother Anthony Shands, 21, who then picked up Shaden, walked two blocks and called 911 from a house on Navarro Street.

Police arrived on scene shortly after the emergency call.

Before the police showed up about 6 p.m., Martin said, she didn't hear any unusual or loud noise upstairs.

"If she was awake, she would have fought back," Martin said. "I didn't hear anything before the police came."

As the police encircled the home, Martin went outside to investigate the commotion. Not yet aware her friend was dead, she immediately asked, "Where's Cynthia? Where's Shadein?"

She was then informed her friend was dead and Shaden had witnessed the murder. "He was sitting on the floor watching her bleed out," Martin said.

When Martin learned her friend might be dead, she texted her sister, Christena Martin, 18, who was Shands' best friend and lived in the downstairs part of the home.

"Cynthia is dead," the text read.

"I called her right back. I thought it was a joke," said Christena Martin, who was away from the home Saturday night visiting friends.

Christena Martin said she and Shands were inseparable. They told each other everything and spent much of their free time together. They even worked together at the McDonald's near the Victoria Mall with a group of their closest friends.

"She was crazy and loud, and would come up and jump on you to be funny," Christena Martin said. "She was energetic. She made everybody around her laugh."

"She was the light in everything. She was smart. She was educated. She was beautiful," Lily Martin added. "If there was a perfect person, it would be her."

Discussing the good memories they shared with their friend, the Martin sisters remembered the many nights the three girls would drive to Bottom Road - blaring Shands' favorite band, HIM, from the stereo.

"Me and Cynthia would stand up through the sunroof and just scream as loud as we could," Lily Martin said. "She felt free when she did that. It felt like we were flying."

Christena Martin said her best friend maintained the carefree spirit in her daily life, and sought to live each day making others laugh, always putting her friends and family at the top of her priority list.

"If she could want anything now, she would want us to be happy," Christena Martin said. "She will be missed by a lot of people."

Shands' mother, Beverly Shands, 47, of Edna, said she was devastated by the news of her daughter's murder and wants justice to be done.

"She didn't deserve this. She was a good person," she said. "There wasn't a person she met that didn't love her."

Beverly said the news of her daughter's death is doubly devastating because the family knew Richards personally.

"That's what makes it so hard. He's the father of my grandchild. And he lived with us a long time," she said. "But he knew what he was doing. ... They better not ever let him out."

Beverly Shands said her daughter once discussed the possibility of becoming a school teacher in the future, or going into pediatric nursing.

"Whatever she would have chosen, we would have supported her," Beverly Shands said.

Martin said Shands withdrew from Victoria East High School last year and was working at the Rio Grande Whataburger in Victoria to earn money. She planned to get her general education development degree.

Shands had been living in the home on Cameron Street for only six months when she died. Richards lived there about two months, Martin said.

"I want to see him face-to-face, and I want him to tell me why," Beverly Shands said. "We love her and we miss her. I wish it had been me instead of her. She was 17. She was just beginning to live her life."

Funeral arrangements are pending with Artero Memorial Chapels in Victoria.

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