I-TEAM | Death of a politician: Backdoor dealings and dirty politics?

As the I-TEAM uncovered and reported, the allegations aren’t the only factors that weighed on him before his death.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Communities across the Peach State are taking time to recognize local elected officials serving parents and students during Georgia School Board of Education Appreciation Week.

Tyrique Robinson died before he had a chance to serve as a newly elected trustee on the Richmond County Board of Education.

The Sheriff’s Office ruled his death a suicide after Robinson’s business partner went public with allegations he stole from her and before he testified in court against her ex-boyfriend over a pending assault charge.

As the I-TEAM uncovered and reported, the allegations aren’t the only factors that weighed on him before his death. We found he was also under political pressure, too.

Tyrique was the youngest member ever elected to the Richmond County Board of Education. He was only 20 years old. So, he was inexperience and perhaps naïve when it came to politics in Augusta Richmond County.

Tyrique Robinson wasn’t afraid to speak up.

Part 1: A deeper look into death of young local politician

Part 2: Family finds deceit in Cherokee

In a video of Tyrique we found on Facebook, he said “Us as a county with eight high schools should have an in-person graduation on a football field…. "

He was speaking out then as a senior in high school during the pandemic. “Board of Education should be discussing this in the board meeting- you guys have meetings, and nothing is done.”

Kim Gowdy is his mother.

“His name meant a lot to him because he was a voice for a lot of people- young, old, it didn’t matter.”

He wasn’t afraid to speak up two years later after just winning a seat on the Richmond County Board of Education.

Tyrique on Austin Rhodes Show: “I knew getting into this race is that - I would have to have tough skin. So I won’t let anyone back me down or let these allegations back me down. It’s just time to stand firm and show I am innocent in this.”

That is Tyrique on the Austin Rhodes show the day before he died.

He was interviewing to defend himself against allegations of theft made by his business partner.

As the I-TEAM first reported, Tyrique met Melissa Oden in January of 2022.

Tyrique on Austin Rhodes Show: “One of the things she told me is she is going to make me great, so I took the vision. It was one of the best things I heard being young but did not realize it came with preposterous control.”

Melissa Oden had the power to make Tyrique great as well. She was a connected and successful businesswoman in Augusta-Richmond County.

Tyrique on Austin Rhodes Show: “There was a meeting between her me, and another individual who I won’t call out who wants the seat. She basically told him not to run because she basically wanted to give me a chance.”

The I-TEAM also obtained a text Tyrique sent to Melissa on Aug. 26.

The meeting was with former commissioner Ben Hasan. Hasan confirmed to the I-TEAM he decided not to run after his friend Melissa Oden asked him to give Tyrique a chance at the seat.

Melissa texted, “Thank you so much Ben!”

Not every text conversation between the two was positive.

Tyrique told Melissa about meeting with Richmond County School Superintendent Dr. Bradshaw. She replied she wanted to talk one on one with Tyrique once she returned from an out-of-town trip.

He asks, “Am I in trouble?”

She replies, “Yes!”

Tyrique met other Augusta leaders too, including Garnet Johnson, even introducing the future Mayor of Augusta to Melissa. Johnson later invited Tyrique to an event where Melissa and his godmother- her friend- Melanie would be in attendance.

Tyrique also spent time with members of the Board of Education, including Super District Nine Board Member Venus Cain.

“Tyrique called me and asked me to mentor him. That’s what I was doing.”

Venus knew Tyrique before he decided to run for the school board but the two had a falling out a few weeks before the election. After the election, two days before he died, Tyrique sent Venus this text exchange:

Tyrique texted: “I got a call informing me you are putting a rumor out there that me and Melissa sleeping together. ….the rumor is not true and I need you to clear it up...

Venus texted back: “Whatever you need to clean up your lies. I told u I am through with you and all your shenanigans with you and Ben. You played a big boy game and u lost u might want to worry about the stuff folks are putting out about u. Stealing money from an old lady and folks going to the news on you. You are exhausting. I don’t know a Melissa. Now anyone connected to you is off-limits for me.”

Liz Owens sat down with Venus to ask about that text exchange.

Liz : “You said you better be worried about going to the news on you?”

Venus: “Yes. Yes. It was that lady - remember I told you - girl, the beautician called me.”

The beautician, Tyrique’s godmother, introduced him to Melissa. She told Venus the same story Melissa told the I-TEAM a few days earlier and that Tyrique defended himself against on the Austin Rhodes show the day before he died.

Rhodes to Tyrique in the interview:” She is saying you used company credit cards to pay for your billboard.”

Tyrique: “She gave me money to fund my campaign I never once misused her credit card.”

Tyrique publicly thanked his godmother for the billboard- Melissa’s friend- two months before the allegations.

Liz to Venus: “Did you go to any news outlets on him about him stealing money and not living in the district?”

Venus: “No. I didn’t know anything about it.... because I stopped talking to him by then… I’m going to be honest with you. The biggest thing that pissed me off is Tyrique sent me a text and asked me to go to Champion’s retreat and have dinner with him.”

Tyrique invited Venus to dinner in mid-October, a month before the election and a month after Pete Fletcher. The long-time attorney for the Richmond County Board of Education- passed away.

Venus explains, “He calls me and I say what is this about? He says my aunt wants me to get you and Randy Frails together. I said no, no, no,- I am not doing that Tyrique and you know that… I said I am not getting caught out in public having lunch or dinner with you and Randy Frails so when we go to look for an attorney and people saying I did something illegal… That’s when I found out Randy Frails was Tyrique’s attorney…that’s the type of shenanigans I was talking about.”

Randy Frails is also Melissa Oden’s attorney and currently representing her in a case she filed against Tyrique’s estate after he died. Frails also represents the agency that investigated Tyrique’s death and ruled it a suicide....and donated heavily to Richard Roundtree’s campaign before becoming Council for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was trying to drag me into what he was doing but I didn’t know what he was doing on the other side… I still don’t know, Liz…. So when Tyrique turned on me saying I am going to support these people- that was another shenanigan I was talking about because a week ago you were all on team Venus. Whatever shenanigans were going on behind the scenes....scared Tyrique to the point he told his family he feared for his son and mother’s life....and a month later- it was his life that was lost.”