COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV/The Gazette) - UPDATE (01/13/20)
A man will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a 20-year-old.
On Monday, a judge sentenced Tyler Wheeler for the October 2018 shooting death of Kenyatta Horne. A jury had previously found Wheeler guilty of first-degree murder.
Horne's aunt told the court: "You took away my sister's first born and only son...I just don't understand. It's just beyond me."
Court records show Wheeler and 2 others planned a night of "hitting licks" - robbing drug dealers. He reportedly held up a shot gun and said "I think I'm going to have to use this tonight." Hours later, a gun battle left bullet holes in homes across a Lorson Ranch neighborhood.
Another suspect in this case, Wayne Sellers, was also convicted and to sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole along with a 32-year sentence for an earlier robbery.
A third suspect, Kyle Watts, will be sentenced January 27th.
Another conviction was announced in the murder of 20-year-old Kenyatta Horne.
On Thursday, a jury found Tyler Wheeler guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Horne. Horne was killed in October of 2018.
Wheeler's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
A man has been convicted by a jury for murder in his role for the murder of 20-year-old Kenyatta Horne.
Wayne Sellers was convicted on Friday in Colorado Springs. The charges he was convicted of include first-degree murder, attempt to commit aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
He was to sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole along with a 32-year sentence for an earlier robbery.
PREVIOUS STORY (5/7/19):
One of the people accused of playing a role in the murder of 20-year-old Kenyatta Horne in an alleged gun battle in Security-Widefield pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
The murder happened on Oct. 7 at a home in the 6400 block of Tranters Creek Way. Beslim Torres Valle pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges on Monday. His sentencing is scheduled for August 16 as he faces 40 to 46 years in prison.
PREVIOUS STORY 1/3/19 (The Gazette):
As he popped Xanax and plotted a night of “hitting licks” — robbing drug dealers — Tyler Lee Wheeler foresaw a special role for a 12-gauge shotgun he kept loaded with birdshot, authorities say.
“I think I’m going to have to use this tonight,” Wheeler allegedly told a crew of accomplices in a room at the Best Inn, 3920 N. Nevada Ave.
Hours later and miles away, those words proved true, authorities say, when the one-time Fort Carson soldier delivered a series of shotgun blasts at Kenyatta Horne during an Oct. 7 gun battle in Security-Widefield over $800 worth of cocaine.
“It all kind of tumbled pretty quickly,” El Paso County sheriff’s detective Karl Mai testified at a preliminary hearing in 4th Judicial District Court on Thursday, describing how Wheeler and a second man opened fire in the street after Horne, 20, drew a pistol.
More than 20 shell casings hit the ground in the shootout that followed.
During the exchange, Horne fired nine rounds and was hit in the chest, collapsing outside his home at 6410 Tranters Creek Way in the Lorson Ranch subdivision. An autopsy determined his wounds were from a single blast of birdshot.
In laying out their case for a judge, investigators described a deadly robbery spree allegedly involving Wheeler, 20, and at least four accomplices, three of them current or former members of the military.
Wayne Sellers, 21, described as a former Army buddy of Wheeler, is accused of firing a .40-caliber pistol 11 times during the botched heist, emptying his clip but missing with each round; Kyle Robert Watts, 19, an active-duty Air Force chef at F.E Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., is accused of serving as the driver; and Beslim Torres Valle, 19, who grew up near Horne, allegedly supplied his name as a potential target and arranged a phony drug deal to set him up.
A fifth man, as yet unidentified, also was present during the killing, according to at least two people who were there.
No drugs were found on Horne’s body, though his empty pistol lay within reach.
Detectives said the same crew was involved in an earlier robbery outside a 7-Eleven near Powers and Dublin boulevards.
In that case, authorities said, a dealer agreed to sell the men a sheet of LSD but was instead robbed of his backpack and left uninjured.
An early break in the investigation came two days later, when Wheeler’s mother called a sheriff’s detective to report that her son had claimed he and Sellers were responsible, but that they fired in self-defense.
Many of the allegations aired in court came from interrogations of Sellers, Watts and Torres Valle, who all implicated Wheeler as the driving force.
Representing Wheeler, public defender Rose Roy argued that Horne’s fatal wound — a shotgun blast to his upper chest and right arm — would have incapacitated him, suggesting he fired first. She said that her client became the fall guy because he was the first person arrested — giving co-defendants a path to minimize their involvement.
Prosecutor Reggy Short argued that Torres Valle’s claim that Wheeler predicted using his shotgun that night showed he was ready for violence.
After the killing, Wheeler made a comment about getting a second teardrop tattoo, suggesting he has been involved in an earlier killing, authorities said. He has no prior convictions.
Judge Theresa Cisneros ruled that evidence was sufficient to bind over all four men on suspicion of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and other counts. All will be held without bond in the El Paso County jail pending trial.
Arraignments are scheduled for Feb. 25.
Wheeler served in the 4th Infantry Division from August 2016 to April 2018 and didn’t deploy, Army records show. It’s unclear what led to his separation. Fort Carson spokeswoman Brandy Gill said she had no evidence that Sellers was stationed at the post.
Watts, the Air Force chef, is a 2017 graduate of Lewis-Palmer High School who also played on the football team for three years, his attorney said.
Gazette reporter Liz Forster contributed to this report.