Witness Says Murder Victim Was Drinking, Driving Around At 2 AM With Him And Man Charged

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A witness told a Criminal Court jury on Wednesday that a 30-year-old woman who was knifed to death in Highland Park was drinking and driving around with him and Tyrone Murphy in the wee hours of the morning.

Murphy is standing trial for the slaying of Ashley Cates on June 4, 2017.

Ervin Tanner said he worked with Murphy at Sticky Finger's downtown, and after work Murphy asked for a ride home. He said Murphy wanted to show him some hygiene items he had for sale in his apartment at 1512 Bailey Ave.

He said when they got to the house late in the evening that a young woman was on the porch of the house smoking cigarettes. He said she also had a beer and a magazine with her.

Tanner, who earlier served 14 years of a 22-year prison term for second-degree murder, said Murphy went up to his room while he talked with the female for about 10 minutes. He then went up to Murphy's room and the woman came up also.

He said she asked if someone could take a look at her refrigerator. Murphy went in and checked it out briefly. Tanner said he told her to just call the maintenance man. All three then went back out on the long front porch and talked awhile.

The witness said Murphy asked the female if she could take him somewhere to pick up a friend. He said he would give her gas money and she agreed.

However, he said her car was so crowded with items that they wound up going in his vehicle. He drove and the woman sat in the front seat. He said they went to a convenience store on 20th Street where he got cigarettes and a six-pack of Bud Lite beer. He said he split the beers with the other two after they got back to the apartment house.

Tanner said they talked more on the porch and he had one of his share of two beers. He said the woman asked about what was up on the third floor of the old house. Murphy said it was a lot of antiques. Tanner said the woman said she loved antiques and was curious to see them.

He said they all went back in the house and upstairs. Murphy got flashlights for all three. He said Murphy suddenly said he needed to go back downstairs. He said he and the woman continued on looking around upstairs. He said, "It looked like a haunted house." He said he began backing out when he saw roaches eating a dead rat.

Tanner said they returned to the porch and he drank the second beer. He then went to the side of the house to urinate. He said he "could hear them talking and laughing on the porch."

By then he said it was around 2 a.m. and time for him to go. He said, "I blew the horn and they both waved at me."

Tanner said when he went back into work the next day a co-worker asked, "Did you hear what happened to Murphy? He killed his roommate."

The witness said when he was with Murphy that night he never saw a cut on his hand. The next day, Murphy went to the hospital to get a damaged hand worked on. He told police he had cut it on a trash can at work.

A witness from the TBI Crime Lab said blood found on the victim's driver's license belonged to Murphy. Police found a bag of items in the laundry room, including some bloody towels and rags as well as the purse, wallet and driver's license of Ms. Cates.

It was also found that blood on the inner door knob of the Cates apartment came from Murphy as well as blood spots found in her room, it was stated.

Murphy said in a lengthy statement to police that was played for the jury that he only spoke with the woman briefly on two occasions. He said he never was in her room.

Asked about his blood being in her room, he told a detective, "I don't know what happened. I have not been in her apartment."

Detective Daryl Slaughter said the murder weapon was not found. A piece of a knife broke off in the victim's head. She was stabbed over 15 times.

Prosecutor Cameron Williams told Judge Barry Steelman that a resident of the apartment building, Donna "DJ" Weaver, had just informed Cates family members about the discovery of a knife or a partial knife.

She said the next resident of the Murphy room had plumbing problems. She said the plumber found the knife was causing the blockage.

Prosecutor Williams said the state did not intend to try to introduce that late-obtained information.




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