Duo to spend decades in prison for Leland woman’s slaying

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By Lindsay Kriz

WHITEVILLE — Two of the three people charged in the 2015 killing of a Leland woman in a plot to steal her money and car each were sentenced to decades in prison Wednesday.


Robeson County Superior Court Judge Robert Floyd sentenced Michael Jesse Williams, 33, and Kayla Turner, 21, separately for their roles in the death of Alicia Deans, a 26-year old mother of two, on April 28, 2015.

Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and robbery with a dangerous weapon Jan. 29. Floyd sentenced him to 23 to more than 28 years (344 months) in the North Carolina Department of Correction with credit for time served, with a consecutive sentence of 83 to 112 months for the consolidated charges of first-degree kidnapping and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Turner pleaded guilty to the same charges Wednesday and was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.

Turner and Williams agreed to testify against the third person charged in the killing, 45-year-old Nathan Tyler Jr., as part of a plea deal.

A jury convicted Tyler Jr. on Feb. 5 of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree kidnapping in Deans’ death. Floyd sentenced him that day to life in prison for the murder charge; 146 to 188 months for the kidnapping charge; and 128 to 166 months for the robbery charge.

Before Williams and Turner were sentenced, Wesley Emmons, Deans’ older brother, read an impact statement and talked about his sister’s compassion.

“She had a staying effect on people,” Emmons said.

Williams’ lawyer, William C. Gore of Whiteville, called Harold Thompson, owner and investigator at Investigations Unlimited Inc. in Whiteville, to speak on his client’s troubled past.

Thompson said through interviews with Williams and his biological mother, Sarah Gilbert, Thompson learned Williams had been sent to foster care at a young age and began experimenting with drugs like crack cocaine as early as 10 to help with mental issues. Thompson said Williams had been treated for bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD.

Williams also asked for and was granted the opportunity to apologize to Dean’s family in court Wednesday.

“I just want to say sorry, and I never meant for it to go this far,” he said.

Before Turner was sentenced, her lawyer, J.B. Lee of Whiteville, called her grandmother Cindy Turner to the stand to speak about her behavior and her past.

Cindy Turner said her granddaughter was never the same after a house fire killed some of her family members when she was 11. “She has had psychological issues since then,” she said.

Cindy Turner also talked about raising her granddaughter’s son following his birth in late 2015, when she was still in custody for the charges in Deans’ death.

Turner said Wednesday she didn’t leave the car when Williams did following Deans’ death because Tyler Jr. threatened to kill her if she did. Assistant District Attorney Chris Gentry said Turner told him in a previous interview Tyler Jr. didn’t tell her she had to stay in the car or threaten her.

Turner’s mother, Samantha Bell, also said he daughter was never the same after the fatal fire and began to have suicidal thoughts and self-harmed because of “survivor’s guilt.” Bell said her daughter has had psychiatric treatment.

Lee told Floyd he knew his client was guilty under the theory of acting in concert, but said she only called Deans to come to Columbus County and afterward was forced to participate in the plot. He said his client wants to be free to see her child.

Turner also apologized to Deans’ family.
“I wanted to tell you guys I am very sorry for the role I played in Alicia’s death, and I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me, because I never meant for her to get hurt,” she said.

Floyd said he took into consideration the difficult life Turner had, but he believed she played a more active role in Deans’ killing than she let on.

“You made the call, you tied her hands, you rode in the car,” he said. “You continued to ride in the car to the destination where she was brutally murdered for $34 and a Ford Taurus.”

The families of Deans, Turner and Williams comforted each another after the sentencings.

Deans’ mother, Sheila Deans, said her heart goes out to Turner and Williams.

“They got caught up in something they couldn’t get out of,” she said. “I really do feel for them and want them to know I forgive them.”

Deans said she forgives Tyler Jr., too.

“It’s not in my heart to hate,” she said. “I forgive Nathan Tyler (Jr.) for what he’s done. I have to.”


Turner, Williams testify

Turner said during Tyler Jr.’s trial Jan. 31 that he told her to call Deans to lure her to his home under the false pretense that his son, Nathan Tyler III, wanted to renew their romantic relationship. His plan, she said, was to steal Deans’ car to kidnap his ex-girlfriend Candy Lee “where she couldn’t go to court.”

Tyler III did not participate in the plot and faced no charges in Deans’ death.

“She had information on him that could send him to prison for his life,” Turner testified.

Turner said Deans came to Tyler Jr.’s home early the afternoon of April 28, 2015. Both women went to Leland in Deans’ car to retrieve personal effects, then to Winnabow and Navassa to get money and oxycodone pills before returning to Tyler Jr.’s home about 5 p.m. where Deans asked Tyler Jr. to go get his son. He said he would and left the house in Deans’ car.

Turner said she knew of the scheme to steal Deans’ car.

Turner said the two women were in Tyler Jr.’s house discussing Turner’s possible pregnancy when a man walked into the home with a 9mm handgun and pointed it at them. She said the robber had to be Williams, her then-boyfriend, because Deans would have recognized Tyler Jr.’s voice, and said Williams was wearing a hoodie that only showed the lower part of his face.

“Michael starts searching everywhere for money,” Turner said. “He asked (Deans) where it is. She said she doesn’t have any, then when she saw he was not giving up she said it’s in her duffle bag with her phone. She had $35.”

Turner said Williams got belts and tied the women’s hands behind their backs as they lay on their stomachs on the kitchen floor. Five minutes later, Turner said, Tyler Jr. walked in and Williams ordered him to tie both women’s hands with shoestring and cover their heads with fabric. Williams put Deans in the trunk of her own car, freed Turner and put her in the back seat, and got into the passenger’s seat before Tyler Jr. drove them away.

Turner said Tyler Jr. stopped the car once so Williams could check on Deans in the trunk and then again so Williams could climb out the passenger window and go home. Tyler Jr., now armed with the 9mm, told Turner to get in the passenger’s seat.

Turner said Tyler Jr. and she drove around “what seemed like forever,” until finally Tyler Jr. backed the car up in a field all the way to where the field and woods meet.

“He gets out, pops the trunk, goes and gets (Deans), goes out in the woods — I was still in the vehicle,” she said. “I saw when he went into the woods. I saw her. She still had a thing on her head. About five minutes (later) I hear a muffled gunshot from far away.

“About three minutes later after that, Nathan comes back up. Just Nathan.”

Turner said Tyler Jr. got in the car and put the gun on the console. “At this point I asked where Alicia was. He said she was gone,” she said. Turner said the next morning the three went to the local Wal-Mart for cigarettes before Tyler Jr. drove the pair in Deans’ car to Chadbourn, where Lee lived.

The two dropped off Tyler Jr. before going to Lee’s house, but the two decided against kidnapping her as Tyler Jr. wanted. They lied and told him they couldn’t go through with it because there were people outside Lee’s home.

Turner said that was the last time she talked face-to-face with Tyler Jr.

Williams testified Feb. 1 he had only been in Brunswick County about two months before Deans died and didn’t know her.

He said he, Tyler Jr. and Turner talked about a robbery — Tyler Jr.’s idea, he said — about two to three weeks before the murder. Tyler Jr. told them he wanted to steal Deans’ car so Turner and Williams could use it to kidnap Lee.

The day of the murder, Tyler Jr. came to see Williams at the home where he lived with his mother in Deans’ Ford Taurus. During the 3 p.m. visit, Williams said, Tyler Jr. came to the house to buy some pills for Deans. Tyler Jr. then left in Deans’ car and called Williams later that night, asking if Williams was ready to rob Deans.
Williams got into Deans’ car with Tyler Jr., texted and called Turner, who was his girlfriend at the time. He said when Tyler Jr. arrived at his home, he handed his 9mm gun to Williams and had him get out, telling Williams he was going to empty the trunk of Deans’ car.

Williams said the front door was unlocked. He walked in and pointed the gun at both women, ransacking the place and finding $38 in Deans’ duffel bag. He had both women lie on their stomachs on the kitchen floor facing each other at a 45-degree angle around Tyler Jr.’s kitchen table and tied their hands with a belt.

He said Tyler Jr. came in about five minutes later. Williams said he yelled at him and pointed the gun at him, too, so Deans wouldn’t think the robbery was planned. Tyler Jr. went into his utility closet, grabbed shoestrings and pillowcases, retied the women’s hands with the shoestrings and put the pillowcases over their heads.

Williams said the four left the home and got in Deans’ car, with Deans in the trunk, Turner — whom Williams said he’d freed — in the back seat and Williams in the passenger seat as Tyler Jr. drove. The three said nothing on their way to Williams’ house. He said Tyler Jr. stopped the vehicle two to three times so Williams could open up the trunk and make sure Deans was still restrained. When Tyler Jr. pulled up to Williams’ home, he climbed out of the passenger window so Deans wouldn’t hear the car door open and close.

Williams said he called Turner later that night and asked where she was. She told him Tyler Jr. took Deans into the woods and shot her.

The next morning, Williams said, Tyler Jr. returned to his house in Deans’ car with Turner and the three went to Lee’s residence. Tyler Jr. had Williams drop him off at a bridge or overpass near Lee’s house so she wouldn’t know he was part of the plot to kidnap Lee.

Williams said he and Turner lied to Tyler Jr., saying there were people outside Lee’s residence, to avoid participating in her kidnapping both times Tyler Jr. attempted it that day.

During cross-examination, by Tyler Jr.’s lawyer, Teresa Gibson of Shallotte, Williams said he used the money stolen from Deans to buy pizza and beer the day after she died.

Lindsay Kriz is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.