Uncle Convicted in Slaying That Led to Teen's Jail Suicide
A New Orleans man was convicted of manslaughter Wednesday in a 2016 slaying that also involved his nephew — a 15-year-old boy who later died when a guard at the New Orleans jail failed to notice he had hanged himself in his cell. Tyrance Chancellor, 36, faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 22, the New Orleans District Attorney's Office said in a statement.
Chancellor and his nephew, Jaquin Thomas, originally faced second-degree murder charges. Police said they broke into a New Orleans apartment in July 2016 and killed 24-year-old Hasahn Shawl. Chancellor and Shawl were both intimately involved with the same woman living in the apartment, authorities said.
Thomas pulled the trigger — his uncle had implicated him from the start and the news release said witnesses accused him of shooting Shawl who also was armed. But Chancellor was considered legally culpable as well because he was involved in a violent crime that ended in a homicide.
The case was overshadowed by the death of Thomas, which returned a harsh public spotlight to the notoriously dangerous New Orleans jail. The lockup has been under federal court supervision for years, due in part to inmate violence and suicides.
The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, which oversees the jail, said in a report on Thomas's suicide that a guard was supposed to check on inmates in Thomas's area every 15 minutes. During one check on the cell, a deputy spotted Thomas at a desk writing something (a suicide note was later found). But he went unnoticed when 40 minutes later, surveillance video "captured the inmate standing on a stool inside of his cell, reaching for the area of the cell's window."
The teen's lifeless body wasn't found until 90 minutes after he apparently lost consciousness after hanging himself from a jail window. The boy's grandmother, Tina Thomas, told The Associated Press in 2017 that she had raised him in the small Louisiana city of Ville Platte, where some family members wound up after evacuating from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
She said then that he was losing interest in small-town life and loved visiting relatives in New Orleans. She said she had grown concerned about him in the summer of 2016 when he was visiting Chancellor and his phone calls home began dwindling.
Shawl was killed early on the morning of July 21 of that year. Witnesses said Chancellor had a club and Thomas had a gun when headed up some stairs to the apartment.
"New Orleans police homicide investigators determined that the two were angered when two women hosting Shawl inside the apartment had stopped responding to their text messages," the prosecutor's news release said.