Shooting suspects to be held for trial

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Shooting suspects to be held for trial

BY CHRIS BENDER<br>SPECIAL TO THE PACKET
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2002 in The Island Packet  |  811 Words  |  /IslandPacket/news/local

Murder suspect Tyree A. Roberts announced his presence at a preliminary hearing Monday by raising his shackled hands and shouting, "Hallelujah!"' He got a quick response from 14th Circuit Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh III:
"Amen."' The exchange came at the start of one of two hearings in the Beaufort County Courthouse for Roberts and Monica DeJesus. Beaufort County Magistrate Charles Smith decided in both hearings Monday that there is enough evidence to
hold Roberts and DeJesus for trial.' Roberts and DeJesus also were indicted by a Beaufort County grand jury in February.' Roberts, 39, is charged with two counts of murder in connection with the slayings of two Beaufort County
Sheriff's Office deputies in January. DeJesus, 24, is charged with two counts of accessory to murder after the fact.' Deputies Lance Cpl. Dana Lyle Tate and Cpl. Dyke "A.J." Coursen were shot and killed in a Burton home Jan. 8 while
responding to a domestic dispute call.' Murdaugh is seeking the death penalty in the case against Roberts.' At Monday's hearing, State Law Enforcement Division agent Travis Avant outlined the case for the magistrate. '
According to Avant, when investigators questioned Roberts, he said, "The cops shot me -- they shot me first. I have nothing else to say."' The initial call reported a domestic dispute or a kidnapping at 21 Riley Road, Avant
said.' A friend of Kimberly Blake, the victim in the alleged kidnapping-domestic dispute, called 911 just before 4 p.m. Coursen and Tate arrived shortly after. The deputies radioed dispatch and said they were trying to sort things out
and that was their last transmission, Avant said. Minutes later, dispatch received several calls reporting shots fired.' During his testimony, Avant indicated Blake has a child fathered by Roberts.' Blake told investigators that
Roberts was standing in a room of the house near a television set, holding a rifle, just before the shooting occurred.' Tate suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and body, and Coursen was shot over and over, including two shots
to the head, one in the hand and one in the back, Avant testified.' As Avant described the wounds in court Monday, D.J. Coursen and Marie Tate, widows of the two officers, wept.' The gun that authorities say Roberts used, which
was recovered behind Broad River Elementary School, was an SKS AK-47 assault rifle, he said.' Blake ran from the home after hearing the shots, Avant said. She went to a neighbor's home, and as Roberts fled he found her and told her to go
with him, Avant said. Then Roberts used Blake's cell phone to call DeJesus, he said.' During the investigation, Avant said he had interviewed Blake three times, and, in the second interview, she admitted to lying earlier. In the second
and third interviews, Avant said, Blake gave investigators more details about the incident.' Beaufort County Public Defender Gene Hood, who represents Roberts, along with Hilton Head Island attorney Sam Bauer, contended the only witness
who testified about the two suspects communicating was Blake, and that phone records did not indicate who was using the two cell phones.' During the second hearing, Avant testified about DeJesus' role in the incident and said she had
been in contact with Roberts during his flight and attempted to aid him in evading police.' DeJesus looked on as her lawyers asked questions, sometimes frowning. DeJesus, who claims to be Roberts' wife, is eight-and-a-half months
pregnant.' Joenathan Chaplin, one of DeJesus' attorneys, asked why Blake hadn't been arrested since she had been in the home, gone with Roberts and allowed Roberts to use her cell phone. Avant said Blake wasn't arrested because she
seemed to be a victim.' DeJesus' other attorney, Chris Hart, contended authorities had no statements from Roberts or DeJesus corroborating Blake's story that the two defendants were in contact with each other.' "Basically, you
don't know who was calling who," Hart said.' Avant testified that they did have phone records from the time after the incident indicating Blake's cell phone was used to call DeJesus' cell phone, and DeJesus' phone was used to call
Blake's.' Avant said DeJesus initially was charged with disorderly conduct because she cursed at Sheriff's Office deputies who questioned her.' Hart asked whether authorities had information that DeJesus had any previous
knowledge of the shooting.' "We have no information that she knew it was going to take place," Avant said.' Hart said no witnesses could testify that Roberts and DeJesus had any sort of physical interaction. But DeJesus was in
the area where Roberts was found and was trying to help him escape, Avant said.