A jury in Smith County, Texas today sentenced Texas College football player Carlton Ray Champion to life in prison for the murder of his transgender girlfriend, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
The same jury on Thursday convicted Champion, 21, of shooting and killing Ty Underwood in Tyler, Texas, on Jan. 26, just east of Dallas, according to the paper.
He had faced from 5 to 99 years, and given that remorse was one of the factors in determining his sentence, an outburst he made in court could have been a factor in his lengthy sentence, the Telegraph reported. “I’m going to be back on the streets” Champion shouted in the courtroom, before being restrained by deputies and led to a cell.
Champion and Underwood, 24, were dating
Champion and Underwood, 24, were dating, and the motive for the murder was reported to be jealousy on Champion’s part.
Jurors deliberated for just two hours on Thursday before returning the guilty verdict against Champion, and spent only 45 minutes deciding he should spend the rest of his life behind bars, and pay a fine of $10,000.
Police found Underwood early on Jan. 26 when responding to a 911 call from a woman who said her children heard gunshots and that a car had run into a telephone pole nearby. Detective Andy Erbaugh told reporters that Underwood was near or inside the car when shots were fired at it; Underwood was likely struck while she was trying to drive away.
"She was lovely, just a lovely person. Very real, down to earth person who didn’t deserve this, did not deserve this at all," Underwood’s roommate Coy Simmons told KYTX. "This has to be a hate crime, this has to be a hate crime, nothing else because that was an upstanding person with a good heart."
Sadly it seems Underwood was the victim of domestic violence which may impact transgender people at an increased rate. A 2009 Massachusetts study found that 34.6 percent of transgender persons surveyed had reported being threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner compared with just 13.6 percent of than non‐transgender persons surveyed.
Underwood was among the first of 21 transgender women murdered in 2015, almost double the number killed in 2014.
His lawyer indicated Champion will appeal. He will be eligible for parole in 2045.
Watch a report from the courthouse on today’s sentencing proceedings from KLTV here.