Vega apologizes; recounts abuse

Published 10:37 am Friday, March 7, 2014

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A teen accused of murder in the shooting death of her stepmother apologized from the witness stand Thursday, calling the death of Michelle Vega an accident.
Tyla Vega, now 17, said she picked up a .270-caliber rifle on May 2, 2011 and pointed it at her “just to scare her” while the two were in a fight.
“I want to apologize because that is not something I meant to do,” a tearful Tyla Vega told jurors and a gallery packed with Michelle Vega’s family members during the third day of the her murder trial. “I’ve been without a mother. I wouldn’t want to put somebody through that purposefully.” Vega offered a different version of the events that ended Michelle Vega’s life than jurors heard in a videotaped interrogation on Wednesday. Initially in the interrogation video, Tyla Vega denied shooting Michelle Vega.
Then she told Warren County investigator Stacy Rollison that Michelle Vega was on the phone when she was shot in the face.
On Thursday, Tyla Vega told jurors that Michelle Vega had threatened to kill her before spitting in her face and assaulting her.
“I picked up the gun and pointed it at her hoping she would back up,” said Tyla Vega who was 14 when she shot and killed here stepmother. “I had in my mind that she was going to stop and leave me alone.”
During her two hours on the stand, Vega contended she had been both physically and emotionally abused by her father and stepmother. The earliest she remembers, she said, was when she was 7 or 8.
“They did odd things like put books and a water jug on my head and make me do 300 squats. If the water jug fell, they would beat me,” she said.
“I was crying and it hurt, but I didn’t think it was wrong. I felt like it happened to everybody.”
In the months leading up to the shooting, Tyla Vega said she felt isolated and attempted to run away multiple times.
“I had tried to run away, but I was found and brought back, so I moved on to trying to commit suicide,” she said.
She attempted to both slit her wrist and hang herself, she told the jury.
After attempting to tell her father and stepmother that she had been sexually abused at age 7, she was laughed at and told she was lying, which led her to not trust anyone enough to talk about the abuse she faced at home, she said.
“Who did you have to turn to?,” defense attorney Marshall Sanders said.
“Nobody but myself,” Tyla Vega said.
Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick recessed the trial at about 6:10 p.m. Thursday after Sanders finished questioning Tyla Vega.
Vega was set to take the stand again this morning for cross-examination by either District Attorney Ricky Smith or Assistant District Attorney Lane Campbell.
Tyla Vega’s grandmother also spent more than two hours on the stand Thursday telling jurors she felt her granddaughter was discriminated against at home because she is biracial.
Tyla Vega’s father, Jason Vega, is white, and her biological mother is black. Michelle Vega was also white.
“It made me feel like she just didn’t want Tyla because she was mixed,” said Nancy Voytko, who is Jason Vega’s mother.
But Voytko also testified that she never overheard any racial discrimination. She said she never called law enforcement or the Department of Human Services because of suspected abuse.
Her testimony did not match testimony that she gave in 2011 at a bond hearing for Tyla Vega, Smith said. During that hearing she testified that she had not heard of any abuse allegations before December 2010.
“You seem to have changed your testimony,” Smith said.