No bond for teen murder suspect

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fourteen-year-old murder suspect Tyla Denise Vega will remain in jail without bond, Warren County Judge Johnny Price ruled Tuesday.

Vega, an eighth-grader at Vicksburg Junior High School, showed no emotion as she made her initial court appearance two days after being arrested in Greenville. Price ordered her held in the Warren County Jail pending the review of the case by the grand jury.

Vega is accused of shooting her stepmother, Michelle Vega, 32, in the family home at 100 Jones Road on May 2. Neighbors saw her drive away from the home minutes before her 15-year-old stepbrother returned and found his mother’s body.

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Michelle Vega had been shot once in the head, Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey said.

Price normally presides over the Warren County Youth Court, but Tuesday was overseeing an adult criminal hearing.

If indicted, Tyla Vega will be tried as an adult, District Attorney Ricky Smith has said. If convicted, she faces life imprisonment.

Smith said the question of whether to charge Tyla Vega with capital murder, which carries a possible death penalty, was considered but not pursued.

“The Supreme Court has told us we can’t execute anyone younger than 18,” Smith said Tuesday. “So it would be an exercise in futility to charge her that way.”

In addition, Smith said, prosecutors also would have to prove that the killing of Michelle Vega resulted from the act of attempting to steal her vehicle.

Tyla Vega was arrested at the home of an unnamed juvenile she had met after arriving in the city, said Hugh McClendon, the deputy U.S. marshal who, along with a Greenville police investigator, arrested her. The teen was sleeping when they entered the home at 7:20 p.m. Sunday, he said.

“We opened the door and announced ourselves,” McClendon said, adding that loud music was playing. “We found her in a back bedroom, asleep. I identified myself, and she woke up, stretched and got out of bed. She was very nonchalant about it all.”

Saturday, following an anonymous tip phoned to them, authorities found the Vega family’s 2002 Dodge Durango at a Greenville gas station, said Richard Griffin, supervisor at the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force southern Mississippi district office in Jackson.

Surveillance video footage helped investigators identify a juvenile whom they linked to Tyla Vega, said Chris Felix, supervisor for the marshals’ north Mississippi district office in Greenville.

“We feel fairly certain they did not know she was wanted, because they were very helpful when they found out what we wanted,” Felix said.

The juvenile, along with two older brothers, gave officers a key to the home, McClendon said, and Vega was the only person there when marshals and police officers arrived.

“She was real emotionless the whole time I was with her,” McClendon said. She showed no obvious signs of alcohol or drug impairment, he said.

She was taken to the Greenville police station and held while Warren County Sheriff’s Department investigators Stacy Rollison and Billy Joe Heggins made the trip to pick her up and bring her back to Warren County.

Marshals said Tyla Vega has family members in Greenville, but were unsure if she had contacted them.

Tyla Vega lived at the Jones Road home with her father, stepmother, stepbrother and half-brother. Her mother has lived in Greenville before, though her location was not known.