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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

Man guilty in Clearwater cabbie murder

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Published:   |   Updated: July 24, 2014 at 07:29 PM

— A man accused of killing a cab driver in 2008 was found guilty Thursday and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

After a three-day trial, jurors agreed that Tyson Washington, 25, committed murder in the first- degree by shooting Jack LaGrand in Clearwater in September 2008.

Judge R. Timothy Peters sentenced Washington to life with out parole.

Until July 2013, when Washington was charged, LaGrand’s murder was considered a cold case. For LaGrand’s widow, Donna, the verdict provided a degree of closure.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “This has been a long time coming. Jack was killed almost six years ago. I’m very, very thankful that this verdict was reached.” Washington has an extensive criminal record. He was in jail in Pasco County on unrelated charges when Clearwater police charged him. The department has been revisiting cold cases since 2011, and the search for information involved asking for tips on a billboard at U.S. 19 and Republic Drive in Clearwater.

Donna LaGrand said she is confident that Washington is the man who killed her husband, especially given surveillance video from the night of his death.

“I didn’t have a doubt that it was the guy,” she said. “There’s always a question of what the jury’s going to determine. You can never guess with the jury. But I always felt that this was the man.”

Washington’s lawyers disagree.

“There was surveillance video of the perpetrator at the bar, and Tyson has a bulb-type deformity on his ear that hangs down, it protrudes pretty well off of his ear,” defense attorney Erin Antonio after the verdict said. “And you can see the ear doesn’t have that in the video. That was the basis of our defense.”

She added that Washington had given a bad interview with a detective in relation to the case, which may have given the impression of guilt, and that she plans to appeal the case.

Police said LaGrand was killed between 1 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2008, behind a Clearwater strip mall. A plaza business owner found him about 7:30 a.m. The door to his Yellow Cab was slightly ajar.

He was the third cab driver to be killed in Pinellas County in 2008. Cyril Obinka, 45, and Linda Faison, 39, also were killed that year while driving cabs. The three crimes are believed to be unrelated. Obinka’s case is not solved. A man suspected of Faison’s murder, Louis Tillman, has yet to go to trial because of questions regarding his mental state.

kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

Twitter: @kbradshawTBO

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