The family of Lake Charles native Sheila Denise Vallian didn’t know Clevert Lee Tyler — the man accused of murdering her in cold blood after little more than a month’s relationship turned sour.
But nonetheless, in Judge John Stevens’ small, mostly empty courtroom, Vallian’s uncle, Perry Martin, sat in the closest seat he could to Tyler and his defense, just a few feet from the man who allegedly brought Martin’s niece to her knees before shooting her in the 1300 block of Collis Street in Beaumont on June 12, 2012.
“I wanted to get a picture of who he is,” Martin said in an interview. “As you heard, they didn’t know each other very well, and I had never met him.”
Tyler was indicted July 10, 2012, and pleaded not guilty Tuesday, June 4, to Vallian’s murder. His defense made no opening statements.
Martin was one of the few family members who could stand the sight of bloody crime scene photos and confessions by Tyler caught on video inside a police officer’s cruiser.
Moments after Vallian was shot, prosecutors said Tyler called 911 and told police he had just shot his girlfriend.
“I just killed my girlfriend,” a man identifying himself as Tyler said in the 911 tape. “I shot her between the eyes.”
Prosecutors played the 911 tape for jurors in Tuesday’s courtroom. In the recording, Clevert Tyler encourages police to detain him. Tyler’s defense did not dispute the identity of the caller.
But after giving police his name, address and home phone number, prosecutors said Tyler wasn’t done there.
After playing a tape of Tyler waiving his miranda rights, evidence in Tuesday’s court showed Tyler led police to a remote area where he left Vallian in the middle of the street after allegedly shooting her.
“Come get me and I can tell you where she’s at,” Tyler said in the 911 call.
Prosecutors also presented video of Tyler inside the BPD cruiser admitting he was wrong in shooting Vallian, telling police they should check texts on his cell phone to see why he shot Vallian.
J.R. Humble was the BPD officer who interviewed Tyler at his home and at the scene of the murder. He testified Tyler told him Vallian fell to her knees on Collis Street when he produced a 9 mm pistol and he killed her execution-style.
“I’m willing to bet she was begging for her life. I know her so well,” Martin said. “I bet she was begging for her life and he showed no remorse by pulling the trigger.”
After two days of police and forensic testimony, it seems Tyler had his fill Wednesday, June 5, when Deputy Bradley Bruns, a firearms and ballistics expert from the Harris County crime laboratory, connected Tyler’s 9mm Highpoint pistol to the shell casing found at the scene of Vallian’s murder.
“I’m being set up!” Tyler retorted. “Everything is fabricated!”
Judge Stevens immediately ordered the jury be dismissed before threatening to either gag or remove Tyler to a holding cell where he could listen to the proceedings.
As the jury exited, Tyler made further outbursts, accusing the jury of being “Masons.”
“This isn’t a trial,” Tyler said aloud in court despite his attorney’s best efforts. “This is a lynching.”
Tyler was eventually escorted from court Wednesday before the state called Vallian’s mother to the stand. The state rested at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, June 5.
A jury of mostly African-American females could deliberate as soon as Thursday, June 6, according to sources familiar with the case.
If convicted, Vallian’s family said they will likely seek the death penalty.
“I have no objection to the death penalty,” Martin said. “None whatsoever.”
On Thursday, May 6, after making outbursts in court, Tyler's defense called an expert psychiatrist to evaluate Tyler's ability to stand trial. The defense's expert witness said Tyler was not of a frame of mind to fully understand the charges against him and was "lucid" and "evasive" with most of his answers. Judge John Stevens reset the trial for Monday, June 17 to give prosecutors their own chance to have Tyler evaluated by an expert of their choosing.