I-TEAM | Death of a politician: Family finds deceit in Cherokee

The family of Tyrique Robinson files a report with police against their son’s former business partner after going to court.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The family of Tyrique Robinson files a report with police against their son’s former business partner after going to court.

Robinson’s family found him dead a week after becoming the youngest member ever elected to the Richmond County Board of Education.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office ruled his death a suicide despite finding no fingerprints on his gun, cell phone, or knife lying next to his body. The day before his death, his business partner Melissa Oden went public with allegations that Robinson stole a quarter of a million dollars from her.

What the I-TEAM uncovered that she did not share publicly is that she wanted Robinson to drop assault charges against her ex-boyfriend, but Tyrique had refused.

The I-TEAM obtained text messages that reveal Melissa Oden even asked Tyrique how much it would take moneywise for him to make the case go away. He didn’t want it to go away, but he died before he could testify in court and before Oden recanted her story about the assault to the police.

Part 1: A look at the death of the youngest politician in Richmond County

Part 2: A deeper look into death of young local politician

The case went to court in late February in North Carolina after the Assistant District Attorney told the family the DA’s office dropped it.

Deep in the mountains of western North Carolina, a few miles from Harrah’s Cherokee hotel and casino, the I-TEAM made a call to the family of Tyrique Robinson.

We got there and found out the case was never dismissed as the family was told.

Teaco Gowdy is Tyrique’s stepfather. “I am so confused with this, so the people that called us was probably a lie.”

Tyrique’s parents showed us a screenshot of their call with the District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 1.

They said then a representative told them there was no reason for them to come to North Carolina on behalf of their deceased son. Last spring, Tyrique and his business partner, Melissa Oden, went to the casino. Her ex-boyfriend Lanzy Meeks showed up. According to the police report, Meeks came to confront Tyrique because he believed Melissa and Tyrique were having a sexual relationship.

Kim Gowdy on the phone with Liz Owens, “She and another lady were on the phone saying why they couldn’t go to trial that the case. That they couldn’t proceed because Melissa had recanted her story, so she then became an unreliable witness, and without Ty being alive and her able to collaborate the story. All they had was the video, and from the video, it looked like Ty was the aggressor. I said well that’s different than what the police report said. Can we not go off of that? And she said no that’s not enough.”

“I said hey, can you send this to me in an email? She said okay, but the lady was in court and the following Monday, but that didn’t happen. So when I called and got the lady back on the phone. They said because of the sensitivity and Tyrique being gone, they did not feel comfortable sending it since I was privy to the incident,” recalled Gowdy.

But when the I-TEAM checked with the Clerk of Court’s Office a few days before the scheduled court date, we learned the case was still on the calendar and just a couple of days away.

We were there when the family presented evidence to the Assistant District Attorney just a few days later.

They showed the Assistant DA a text message from Melissa Oden to their son asking him to bring two security guards to the room at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort just before the alleged assault.

They also showed the court this text from Melissa to Tyrique months later, asking him how much for him to make the case against her ex go away.

Despite the text messages, and the family wanted to pursue charges against the man charged with assaulting their son, plus their presence in court—the Assistant District Attorney still dismissed the case telling them the security footage from the Casino backs up Melissa Oden’s new story: that Tyrique was the aggressor - not her ex-boyfriend.

The family recorded their call with the ADA who told them, “So, the video footage shows Tyrique as the person who pushes first. So, the video footage - I can’t make a case without Tyrique I just can’t because the video footage makes it look like he is the aggressor.”

The family left the courtroom and went straight to the police station to meet with the original officer who responded to the alleged assault against their son.

Step-mom to an officer: “She actually told us the case was dismissed before it was actually dismissed. She called last month at the end of the month, so we thought the court case was off the docket, and it was still on the docket for today.”

Officer Ashley Cromer remembers responding to the call at the casino and Tyrique. She makes a call to the Assistant District Attorney, who just dismissed the case an hour earlier.

Officer Cromer, during that call, says, “She is saying she is telling me the opposite of what she told me in the video- of what the video shows- I guess she is trying to make excuses for what the video is showing.”

Officer Cromer reads the report aloud to the family, “It says Meeks steps forward and grabs his arm, and it says he was trying to get in between him and the female trying to protect her from getting hit.”

Liz to Officer Cromer: “Did the DA get a copy of the video?”

Cromer: “Well, I asked her she said she saw it, but she says she has a copy of this report, and I said she obviously didn’t have the same one I’m looking at.”

Officer Cromer confirms over the phone the Assistant District Attorney does not have the video of the assault. The media spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office also confirmed to I-TEAM stating the video was not in their possession after we requested it.

Perplexing to Officer Cromer who said, " I just told her I didn’t file the report on what she said I filed the report based off of the kid lying there and we having to come get him… If they want to go toe to toe about it—it’s not the first time I had to do that.”

The officer, along with Tyrique’s family go toe-to-toe writing and sending this report to the District Attorney in North Carolina, this time not against Melissa Oden’s ex-boyfriend but against Melissa herself for attempting to bribe a witness and for filing a false report.

It is now up to the District Attorney to pursue charges against Melissa Oden. We asked the DA’s spokesperson if they would charge her with filing a police report, and they responded “no comment”. We will be following the case and will keep you updated on it.