An attractive “woman” starts dating a college football hero. At first the player has no idea the “woman” is not who he thought she was, and when he learns the truth, he gets angry–with himself more than with “her” –and kills her. Another scenario, the football player does know the person is transgender, and gets into a sexual relationship, only to end up killing her when she threatens to out him. One of these two scenarios may have come to pass as a 911 call came in to the Tyler, Texas police department early in the morning of Jan. 26 reporting a car crash at first – before a witness nearby claimed he’d heard gunshots.
When officers appeared on the scene at 2:26 a.m. they saw a red Toyota Camry had jumped the curb and almost hit a utility pole. In the driver’s seat there appeared to be female – who upon closer inspection had been shot “several times,” according to a criminal affidavit. And it was the shots, Officer Don Martin tells PEOPLE, that caused the victim to lose control of the car.
Tyrone “Ty” Lee Underwood, 24, a transgender woman, was determined dead at the scene.
On Monday, police arrested Carlton Ray Champion Jr., 21, a college football player who they say had an ongoing relationship with Underwood, for Underwood’s murder.
When investigators spoke with Champion’s father, Carlton Champion Sr. they learned the father “heard Carlton Jr. was meeting the victim and thought the victim was a female,” according to documentation in the arrest affidavit written by officer Nathan Elliott . According to Champion Sr., “Carlton Jr. was supposed to get some type of sexual favor from the victim but realized the victim was a male.”
Police beg to differ.
They say both people were aware of each others’ truth and had been having an ongoing relationship for several weeks, according to what Martin told PEOPLE. “All indications are that both parties, the suspect as well as the victim, knew the gender of each prior to the shooting.”
“There’s no hate crime,” Martin says. “Evidence that was located indicate that they were both aware – through more than a friendship relationship – what they were getting into.” It was, he says, “a sexual relationship.”
Underwood died, according to the arrest affidavit, after arguing with Champion over social media about whether Champion was seeing someone else.
No one is totally clear on how and where the gunshots were fired.
“The indications by the bullet holes in the vehicle and the victim indicate that more than likely, at some point in time, Champion was in the vehicle, versus not a drive-by” shooting, says Officer Martin. “We definitely know for sure” that shots were fired from outside the vehicle, he says, “but possibly inside as well.”
It was Underwood’s roommate that led investigators to the football player. Cops learned that Underwood had been dating a man named “Carlton” for the past couple of weeks. A police department employee who worked with Underwood recalled that Underwood had talked about dating a football player at Texas College in Tyler.
Police located Carlton Champion on the team’s roster. The two had been communicating through the Kik social media app from as far back as Jan. 19 and documented the pair’s “sexual relations,” according to the affidavit.
Champion is being held in Gregg County jail on a $1 million bond. At press time, he has not yet entered a plea.