I-TEAM UPDATE: A look at the death of the youngest politician in Richmond County
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Tyrique Robinson was the youngest member ever elected to the Richmond County Board of Education.
And was dead a week after the election.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled Robinson’s death a suicide but his family believes the chapters leading up to his death and following it cast a shadow of doubt over the narrative.
They tell the I-TEAM they want the truth, no matter what it is.
The truth is Robinson did have a lot going on the month before his death, including allegations of stealing a quarter of a million dollars from his mentor. she went public with that the day before his death.
The I-TEAM uncovered what he had not made public, he was pursuing assault and battery charges against his mentor’s ex-boyfriend from an incident involving the three of them at a casino last spring.
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Nov. 15, 2022, 7 days after the election, 911 call:
Dispatch: 911 do you need police fire or ambulance?
Robinson’s brother: My brother committed suicide.
Brother: Over (beeping) money?!
Brother: He wouldn’t answer the phone and something told me to come to check up on him.
Deputy Parsons: Do you know if he was going through anything?
Brother: Yes he just got district 6.
Deputy Parsons: Ask the brother if he moved the firearm…did you touch the firearm?
Brother: Yeah. I moved it.
Robinson had a lot going on the month before winning district six and becoming the youngest member ever elected to the Richmond County Board of Education.
The 20-year-old learned he was going to be a father for the second time.
He was receiving backlash from aligning himself with new candidates.
Rumors began circulating on social media over his sexuality.
And the day after the election, his mentor, Melissa Oden, accused him of stealing a quarter of million dollars.
Robinson’s mother, Kim Gowdy, says, “Anyone who knew Tyrique knows there is more to the story.”
I-TEAM found it’s a story full of unexpected twists and turns, with an end just as baffling as the chapters leading up to his death.
Investigators with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office did not recover any fingerprints on the gun despite Robinson’s brother moving it.
According to their investigative notes, neither did they recover prints on the mags, rounds, air-pods, two cell phones, or knife, all on the bed next to his body.
The gun itself has no serial number so no record. Investigators state they could not recover the number.
No footage from the security cameras either, the investigator notes he received an email from the Comcast legal department advising they did not have an account with the listed address or camera system for Robinson.
The I-TEAM asked Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, to learn more.
I-TEAM: Is it odd or unusual to not be able to recover any prints, security video, or the serial number on the gun found at a suicide?
I-TEAM made a request under Georgia’s open record law for the email from Comcast to the investigator.
The sheriff’s office replied stating the email was deleted. The I-TEAM asked their IT department to recover it.
Sheriff’s Office: It was unable to recover the email. your questions have been forwarded to the sheriff.
Also, perplexing, dispatch did not receive any calls about gunfire from the apartment complex that Monday or Tuesday.
The GBI autopsy report found everything normal, down to the fingernails. No mention of gunpowder or blood on his hands. They did not perform toxicology. The official cause of death on the GBI’s report is suicide.
Gowdy told us she last saw her son that Monday. The day before he died when he left her house to go to Perry Georgia.
“He was going to Perry Georgia for board training, as far as I know. My husband and his dad found a key to the hotel but I can’t say,” Gowdy says.
The I-TEAM went to Perry and asked if Robinson ever checked into his room. The clerk told us she can only give the person who made the reservation that information, which would be the Richmond County Board of Education.
Gowdy says, “I know he was looking forward to training and all, I don’t know what made him come back.”
According to officials, photos from the scene of his apartment, show a bathtub full of water, Robinson naked in bed, ankles crossed, and a blanket pulled up and tucked around him.
Richmond County investigators wrote in their notes that they were unable to access security footage from his apartment, so we don’t know when Robinson returned home from Perry.
However, deputies at the scene did see where the alarm on his door activated.
Deputy Parsons: That door was open at 9:30 p.m. last night. He was in Atlanta last night. Mama says she talks to her sons on the phone, him and the other one down there, she checks his phone and his phone showed him in Perry Georgia.
Deputy Parsons: Suspicious?
Robinson’s family found the most suspicious piece of this puzzle three weeks later when investigators returned his two cell phones.
Robinson’s step-father, Teaco Gowdy, says, “All the pictures, all the video, and most of the pictures of him and Melissa Oden or the text messages deleted column from her was deleted.”
Oden is a businesswoman, and owner of several local nursing homes and as well other businesses.
She told the I-Team she was Robinson’s mentor and business partner in a trucking and transportation business. Oden also helped him with his campaign, even going as far as to ask her friend, former commissioner, Ben Hasan, not to run against Robinson.
She also contacted us the Friday before his death.
Oden: I have a very important story to tell you about a newly elected official who has been stealing.
Teaco Gowdy says, “I got in touch with my oldest son. first. he took work from me and told me how to do it. I went into iCloud, paid the $9 for storage, cut the phone, rebooted, and did all the messages and pictures getting all backup.”
The files Robinson’s stepfather recovered paint a different picture of Oden and Robinson’s relationship.
They went to a strip club together, and they went on trips together, including Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina in May of last year.
Gowdy says, “Tyrique went out of town with her …and he called me and said mama I got something to tell you don’t tell pop, I got into a fight. I was protecting her, her ex-boyfriend came here.”
According to the incident report from the Cherokee Indian Police Department, Oden’s ex-boyfriend assaulted her and Robinson. In her statement she says the ex-boyfriend:
Oden: He flew all the way here from Texas because he heard she was going to be here and was bringing the young man. He thought there was something sexual happening between the two of us and came to confront Robinson.
Gowdy says, he said that Oden wanted him to not go forward with it.
A text from Oden to Robinson after the incident at the casino was among the recovered files on his phone.
Oden: Ty, Lanzy wants to know how much for you to write and a letter not to press charges. $8,500? Actually, make it $10,000.
“He said, mom, I got to go forward with it,” Gowdy says.
Oden emailed the district attorney in North Carolina asking for their court date to be moved due to the original date falling on election day.
Robinson died before the rescheduled court date, and he could go forward with the charges before Oden changed her story, according to Robinson’s mother.
Gowdy says, “Then about a week and a half ago, maybe two weeks, the D.A. calls and says Mrs. Gowdy we want to let you know they won’t be able to move forward to the case. And I’m like, what do you mean, what happened? She said Oden recanted her story. The whole story she said she blamed Tyrique. She said Tyrique was the aggressor.”
The I-TEAM reached out to Oden. She asked us what she said in her statement to the police, and for us to send her the police report from Cherokee. We did. She referred us to her attorney.
Randolph or “Randy” Frails represents Oden, he also represents the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Frails: She has decided it’s really not appropriate to comment on this issue in Cherokee or anything that may have hurt this young man Tyrqiue who is deceased-who committed suicide.
I-Team: I want to make sure there isn’t a conflict of interest with you representing Melissa and the sheriff’s office.
Frails: I don’t see where a conflict arises where I represent the Mrs. Oden and the sheriff’s office and a client also
Frails: she didn’t cause his death she wasn’t involved in his death its quite evident this young man- anyone committing suicide apparent anyone who has committed suicide must be dealing with some issues that the world is unaware of or else they wouldn’t commit suicide.
“It’s unreal, like a nightmare you keep waking up from,” Gowdy says.
A nightmare because the family believes the whole story about their son...
Deputy Parsons: So am I doing my report as an unattended death? Or suicide?
It might lie in the missing puzzle pieces.
Investigators: All evidence points towards it.
We are still going through files the family says they recovered from Robinson’s phone, which they hope will help connect the dots to something they believe expose something much bigger than their son.
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