The former girlfriend of Tyrone Thompson, charged in 2011 with killing a Wellborn teacher, recounted Thursday at Thompson’s trial her hours spent with him before and after the teacher’s death.
Cheryl Burton said she had been seeing Thompson, 35, for several months on April 20, 2011 when they visited the home of his friends, Patrick Watkins and Taneshia McLain, around 7 p.m.
Burton said she and Thompson spent around an hour with Watkins, McLain and a man with dreadlocks before the she and Thompson got into an argument and left.
Burton said she drove Watkins to another woman’s house before heading home with Thompson and the man with dreadlocks. According to Burton, Thompson and the man with dreadlocks appeared to have known each other.
When Burton went to bed, she said, Thompson and the man were outside drinking beer.
Before Burton’s testimony, Watkins identified the man with dreadlocks as his brother, Jovon Gaston, who was convicted in 2015 of kidnapping 29-year-old Kevin Thompson, forcing him to withdraw money from numerous ATMs and driving him to Cherokee County, where he was fatally stabbed and left him on the side of U.S. 278.
Burton said she was later woken by a call from Thompson. She said he had asked her something about a debit or credit card, and she hung up on him, still angry.
The next morning, Burton said, she woke up hearing Thompson in the shower. Burton said she got her children ready for school while Thompson took a long shower and got into bed. She said she got back into bed with him, and the two woke up again later that morning.
Shortly after, Burton said, Anniston police arrived at her home on East 10th Street to question Thompson about Kevin Thompson’s disappearance.
Burton said she overheard part of Thompson’s conversation with police, and didn’t know he had known Kevin Thompson until then.
Burton said Thompson drove with her to the Anniston police station for further questioning and waited hours while Thompson talked with police before leaving to pick up her kids.
Police who testified later Thursday said they arrested him after questioning.
When he didn’t come home, Burton said, she went out and partied and threw Tyrone Thompson’s belongings in the trash. She said she later allowed police to confiscate that trash can and search her home and car.
Police who testified said they didn’t recover evidence from Burton’s property.
Taesha Pulliam, who had been living with Gaston at her home on Maple Street in Weaver, said she had met Thompson, Gaston and Smith while working at Wendy’s and had dated all three of them at one point.
Before Kevin Thompson’s death, Pulliam said, she dated Tyrone Thompson and Gaston simultaneously. Tyrone Thompson knew Pulliam was dating Gaston, she said, but Gaston was unaware of her relationship with Thompson.
On April 20, 2011 Pulliam said, she and Gaston had gotten into a fight and broken up. She said Gaston called her repeatedly, asking for a ride somewhere, and she refused each time.
Pulliam said she went to bed around 9 p.m. that night, and was woken up by a call from Tyrone Thompson after 1 a.m. According to Pulliam, Thompson told her he was dropping off Gaston at her home and believed the two had set her up. Pulliam said Gaston appeared “a little dirty,” when he came home.
A few days later, Pulliam said, Thompson called again, asking her to have Gaston get him out of jail and claiming he was innocent.
Taesha Pulliam’s brother, Jamaal Pulliam, who lived with his sister and Gaston, said he had previously met Thompson — once at a friend’s house and later at his home, where the two spoke briefly on the porch.
Pulliam said he noticed muddy boots and a keyboard on April 21, 2011 at the house, became upset and told his sister. Pulliam said he suspected the keyboard belonged to Kevin Thompson, because the teacher played it at church.
Later that day, Pulliam said, he was watching the news about Kevin Thompson’s disappearance and Tyrone Thompson’s arrest, when he was joined by Gaston.
Pulliam said he told Gaston about Tyrone Thompson’s arrest, and Gaston appeared upset.
Watkins said he had never seen Gaston with a gun. McLain, who shares children with Watkins, said at one point she kicked Gaston out of her toddler’s birthday party after he brought a rifle.
Several law enforcement officers, who played a role in apprehending Smith, finding Kevin Thompson’s car and interviewing Tyrone Thompson and his co-defendants, also testified Thursday.
Anniston police Investigator Clint Parris said he spoke to McLain and Watkins on April 26, 2011. When police walked into their home, Parris said, they noticed a bag of marijuana sitting on a table and offered to overlook it if Watkins helped find Gaston.
Parris said Watkins called Gaston and agreed to meet at an address on Ferron Avenue, where police arrived and took Gaston into custody.
Jurors also viewed security footage of what police said was Smith buying the duct tape used to bind Kevin Thompson around 1:30 a.m. May 21, and rewatched footage of Smith withdrawing money using Kevin Thompson’s card at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Jacksonville hours before.
This is the third day jurors have heard witness testimony. The court selected the jury Tuesday morning.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones in January barred Thompson from receiving the death penalty, citing his low IQ scores.