Because the cameras in the courtroom often faced outward from the bench, toward the gallery, I inadvertently watched Woodson’s mother and his fiancée as they watched the trial. When I finally found White, her trust was even harder to earn than McDougald’s.
Eventually, she agreed to meet me–and then backed out. “I would love to talk to u also but it would have to be after Thanksgiving the holidays is really hard on me and my kids since Tyree been gone,” she wrote me.
We had another appointment in early December 2016 but she backed out again. When I wrote her back in February, she did not respond.
Finally, in April, we had a long phone conversation, punctuated by sobbing, as she told me about her life with Tyree.
White said she met Woodson through a mutual friend soon after he had finished a stint in jail. They started talking and hanging out and had been dating for five years by Christmas 2012. She had two children and they all lived together.
When I asked what it was like to live with him, White said: “Tyree was always that type of person that just do stuff, you don’t even know it’s coming. You just got to prepare yourself for everything.”
For instance, he took her to the Poconos for Valentine’s Day one year. And when she wasn’t ready to come back, they stayed another week. “We had a good time. It was like horseback riding. We got to take pictures. They had like comedy shows there, like restaurants where we can go and have fun. We had a jacuzzi in our room,” she said.
He also surprised her with a marriage proposal, she said, telling her he needed to get a new watch battery at the jewelry store and springing a ring on her instead. She happily accepted.
“Tyree was a good father figure to my kids he was great with them he spent a lot of time with them helping them with homework taking them out and just being a father to them,” she wrote me a few weeks after our first conversation. She said he especially loved steak and crabs, but, in reality, she wrote, “he like to eat all food lol he was like a fat boy at heart.”
She also told me her version of what happened on the day after Christmas in 2012.
She said she was cooking that day–tacos, she thinks–and sent Woodson to the store to get the seasoning. When she heard the story the police told about what happened, she said “it all seemed like an inside job, plotted and planned so he wouldn’t come home and would stay locked up all of that time.”
She also told me that during the trial one of the officers “was smiling in my face, saying that Tyree wasn’t going to come home.”
Woodson did come home, though, and moved into White’s Hollins Street apartment with her and her children. He never got his car back, even though all of the charges were dropped, so Woodson arranged to pay for a rental car by the week and went back to working with his uncle, James McDougald, doing construction and odd jobs.
On July 25, Woodson and White went to McDonald’s to buy dinner. When they left the apartment, White told me on the phone, she could see that the club next door was open because the parking lot was starting to fill up. When they got back, there were even more cars around.
“He was carrying the food, I was carrying the drinks and all I know is like we was walking through the split and I heard gunshots,” White recalled. The split is a little walkway they had to go through to get to the apartment. “But when I heard the gunshots I didn’t even know I was shot until like the third time. When I got shot that’s when I dropped all the sodas. Tyree was just screaming for me and stuff and he dropped the food and he picked me up and ran us to the apartment building.”
Woodson laid White down beneath the steps, where she would be covered from fire.
White’s son came out and was screaming for her and Woodson ran toward him, to get him back inside.
White passed out there under the stairs, and when she came to she saw Tyree and her son and neighbors all standing around. Tyree was “screaming and hollering for someone to get his car keys because the ambulance had not came.”
White had been hit four times: twice in the lower back, once in the chest, and once in the neck. She slipped in and out of consciousness.
Woodson didn’t know he had been shot in the foot at first. But when the medics were there, he lit a cigarette and someone told him he shouldn’t smoke because he had been shot, White recalled.
“When I came to I was in the hospital. All my family was there. Tyree’s mother was there, a lot of people was there, and everybody was like crying and stuff like that,” White recalled. “Tyree was coming there, being pushed to my room in a wheelchair. He had made them discharge him . . . so he could come be with me.”
She said she was still heavily medicated when the detectives first came to see her. “They kept trying to bring Tyree into the hallway, so I remember them coming the whole time I was there making me feel uncomfortable and making Tyree feel uncomfortable.”
The story White told me about that night and the events that followed was similar to the various police reports filed by Det. Matthew Pow, who got the case–but there were a few big differences. Pow wrote in his progress report that Woodson wanted to be relocated in exchange for talking. Pow told Woodson he would have to identify the shooter. Woodson told him to talk to White. She refused to talk to anyone. In White’s story there was no talk of relocation, but there was a lot of pressure from the detectives.
“The third time when they came, they was telling him to come in the hallway and I told Tyree I didn’t want him going in the hallway, whatever he had to say to them he could say it to me,” she said.
“Why don’t you go ahead and tell your fiancée who shot her?” White recalled the detectives said to Woodson. “And he was all like ‘I don’t know who shot us, like I told y’all that the last two times you came.’”
“And that’s when the other officer, he was basically trying to talk to me like they know who shot us, [saying] Tyree needs to let me know what’s going on, basically making it try to seem like the reason I got shot was because of Tyree.”
White said that Tyree started crying and the detectives said: “Let your fiancée know she almost died because of you. It’s all because of you, she would have never got shot.”
The detectives told Woodson and White that they knew that Woodson’s cousin, Jerome McDougald, shot him. But White was suspicious. “I was actually cool with his cousin’s baby mother. We knew each other before we even started dealing with them, before I even met him, before she met his cousin and all that,” she said. “So all I know is when I had got shot she was reaching out to me and making sure that me and my kids were OK.”
She said that Woodson stayed with her at the hospital unless he was taking care of her kids or running errands for the family. He had moved back in with his mother, and White joined them there when she was released from the hospital a few days later.