19-year old Tynesha Stewart was an American college student murdered on or about March 15, 2007 by her former boyfriend, Timothy Wayne Shepherd. Stewart was a freshman civil engineering major at Texas A&M University. Shepherd killed her when she came home for spring break because he was jealous that she had started a new relationship with another guy. Shepherd was 27 years old at the time.
Shepherd committed the crime at his apartment at 17700 Red Oak #224 in northwest Harris County, Texas. Prosecutors believe that Shepherd disposed of Stewart’s body by burning it on his two barbecue grills on the balcony of his second floor apartment. This reportedly took 2–3 days to complete. One of the two grills belonged to James Hebert, who often played video games and barbecued with Shepherd. Since they barbecued together frequently, Hebert kept his grill on Shepherd’s balcony along with Shepherd’s smoker. Dionne Whitaker, a neighbor whose patio is directly across from Shepherd’s, saw Shepherd carry the two grills to the dumpster after days of intense burning. Other witnesses in the case include Shepherd’s cousin, whom Shepherd told prior to the murder that he “could get away with killing someone”. In another witness report, Shepherd has also stated that he would “boil someone and eat them up.”
When initially questioned for ten hours by the police, Shepherd refused to discuss Stewart’s disappearance. Afterwards, he spoke with activist Quanell X, whom officers credit with helping to obtain a confession from Shepherd. Quanell at the time informed Shepherd that police would look for incriminating forensic evidence if he was involved. Shepherd started crying as the two spoke, and later led the activist and a detective to a trash can where he stated he left the body. Shepherd confessed when no body was found in the trash container. However, investigators discovered Stewart’s teeth in the disposal.
He was held in the Harris County Jail on a $250,000 bond.
Jury selection for his trial began on September 29, 2008. During the trial, Shepherd’s neighbor Dionne Whitaker remembered the smell as being “worse than the smell of singed hair or burning tires”. When Whitaker asked Shepherd about the smell at the time, Shepherd answered it was “the spices”. Quanell X, who also testified as a witness, stated Shepherd told him “They’re going to kill me, man. They’re going to give me the death penalty.” Additionally, Stewart’s younger sister called Shepherd “controlling”, and expanded her statement by telling an incident where Shepherd physically shook Tynesha out of anger after she picked up a cell phone call.
Shepherd was convicted of the crime on October 9, 2008, after jurors deliberated for four hours. He was given the maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. During the punishment phase of the trial, Shepherd revealed how he murdered Stewart. He pressured her to reveal her new relationship at college, but she refused to answer and grabbed a knife from a table and began to approach him with it in her hand. She swung at him with the knife and nicked his fingers. Afraid she was going to stab him again, he grabbed her around the neck with one arm and tried to reach the knife with his other hand, though ended up choking her to death out of anger. He later went to the hardware store to purchase a jigsaw. He undressed the body and dismembered it in his bathtub using the jigsaw and other tools. He barbecued the remains on his grills in his patio.
Shepherd’s defense attorney, Chip Lewis, argued that Shepherd’s constitutional right to a lawyer was violated since he had asked for one prior to confessing. The judge ruled in response that Shepherd had waived his rights allowing the jury to hear the confession. Lewis planned to indicate that the confession was retrieved illicitly and the jurors could not use it as a basis to convict Shepherd.