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Judge to decide whether jurors will hear police recording of defendant

By Jessica Priest
Jan. 29, 2014 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2014 at 7:29 p.m.


Trial set

The trial of Tyrel Richards is set for March 17.

• Defense attorneys: James "Jim" Beeler and Elliott Costas

• Prosecutor: District Attorney Stephen Tyler

• Judge: Stephen Williams

"I've thought about murdering someone my whole life," Tyrel Richards said.

The recording of Richards' conversation with Victoria police Detective James Poe was played in a Victoria courtroom Wednesday morning.

Judge Stephen Williams will decide in the coming weeks whether jurors will hear those same words at trial.

Richards was arrested and charged with capital murder March 3, 2012, after police discovered Cynthia Shands dead in a bathtub at a home in the 100 block of North Cameron Street.

The state is seeking the death penalty.

Elliott Costas, who represents Richards, argued the two-hour-long tape should be suppressed from evidence.

The defense is also trying to get the capital murder indictment dismissed.

Richards told Poe he "smoked some weed" that day and "smoked some wet afterward."

Poe said he thought "wet" meant Richards smoked cigarettes laced with embalming fluid.

The cigarettes did not test positive for the fluid. Richards' blood was also not tested, according to testimony.

Because the ingredients seem to always be changing in synthetic drugs, it would be difficult to determine whether Richards was intoxicated when he agreed to be questioned, said Dr. Kendall Crowns, a deputy medical examiner in Travis County.

"Law enforcement took advantage of his (Richards') malleable state," Costas said.

Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler, however, cited cases in which a defendant said a version of, "I got nothing to say," to law enforcement, which is what Richards said when he was read his Miranda rights. In those cases, a higher court found the statement was not enough to invoke one's right to remain silent.

"The defense is asking the court to extend the law and not by a little but by a lot," Tyler said.

Richards has also said he attempted to sexually assault Shands hours after her death but was not successful.

"Do you feel bad?" Poe asked the 22-year-old about the murder in the March 3 tape.

"I'm still waiting to feel something," Richards replied, adding he was nervous for about 20 minutes afterward. "I know it was wrong."

The defense has argued this should not be a capital case because Richards did not sexually assault Shands, 17.

Crowns, who performed Shands' autopsy, did not find evidence of a sexual assault, but someone could sexually assault or attempt to sexually assault another person without leaving signs of trauma, he said.

Shands died of sharp and blunt force injuries. She was also strangled, he said.

Tyler said Richards only needed to attempt the act to make this a capital case. Shands' injuries, along with a bite mark thought to be inflicted on her neck before her death, prove this, he said.

Costas said the bite was part of the aggression. He said his client's violent behavior was the result of his drug use.

"In reality, it's a tragic felony murder," he said.

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