Seven years after her 15-year-old grandson’s murder, Joyce Thompson calmly, quietly, recalled the frantic phone call she received from the teen’s mother in Addison.
It was May 2000. Tyler Thompson had been shot and was lying on the floor, his mother, Debbie, told Joyce Thompson as she awaited the arrival of police and paramedics.
Joyce Thompson and her husband, Milton, packed hastily to leave. Before they could do so, another phone call came to the Thompsons’ home in Early: “He’s gone.”
She screamed and cried when she learned her grandson had died.
“As a grandparent, you never think you’re going to have to go through anything like that,” Thompson said. “What really hurts is, the guy who did it thinks it’s funny.”
She was referring to a gang member named Jason Chheng, who was placed on 10 years probation for Tyler’s murder after pleading guilty in a plea bargain.
“Jason Chheng killed a teen, now laughs about evading justice,” the Dallas Morning News reported in a series, published earlier this month, about murderers on probation.
“The prosecutor didn’t think he had a strong enough case,” Joyce Thompson said of the plea bargain. “We didn’t like it.
“ … We didn’t like the idea of him getting probation. It’s unthinkable to see someone get probation for murder. We expected the (Dallas County) probation office to stay on top of this, and the prosecutor’s office to stay on top of this, and they haven’t.”
Thompson, who works at Home Depot, said Tyler’s murder has been “a hurt that just doesn’t heal because there has been no justice.”
Because of the murder, Gene Thompson left his job as an electrical engineer and is studying to become a counselor, Joyce Thompson said.
Gene Thompson, who is Milton and Joyce Thompson’s son, graduated from Brownwood High School in 1976. His younger sisters, Patricia and Caroline, graduated from Brownwood High in 1978 and 1981, respectively.
Tyler was born to Gene, who worked as an electrical engineer, and his then-wife, Debbie. He was one of Joyce and Milton’s seven grandchildren.
Tyler’s murder was profiled in the Dallas Morning News series about killers on probation. The series looked at 56 cases in Dallas and surrounding counties from 2000 to 2006.
In 44 of the cases, sympathy for the killer was a factor, usually because of the victim’s own actions before the murder, the newspaper reported. In 12 of the cases, evidence or witnesses were missing, according to the series. The newspaper, reporting on Tyler’s murder and the case against Chheng, relied on interviews with people including Chheng himself, public records and confidential probation records.
One of Tyler’s friends broke into a car that belonged to someone Chheng knew, the Morning News reported. Tyler stored the pilfered goods, but returned them.
But Chheng and his associate wanted $100 from Tyler for a broken car window, and Tyler didn’t have the money. They gave him time to pay, and when he didn’t, they confronted him just outside the front door of his apartment one evening in May, the newspaper reported. Moments later, Tyler fell, fatally shot.
“We gave him so much time, and he hadn’t paid up. Principle’s something big,” the newspaper quoted Chheng, smoking and laughing as he talked to a reporter, as saying.
Chheng was arrested, but a judge ruled that a key piece of evidence was inadmissible. Chheng’s court-appointed lawyer agreed to have Chheng plead guilty in exchange for the sentence, the newspaper reported.
The prosecutor, unsure if he could win a conviction at trial, took the deal.
The newspaper documented a series of vanishings and scrapes with the law on the part of Chheng, the probationer. Chheng was arrested for driving without a license and speeding, and was caught twice driving without insurance, the newspaper reported.
In 2004, the vehicle he was driving collided with a vehicle in Lewisville when he ran a red light. Chheng smelled of an alcoholic beverage, but police ticketed him and let him go, the newspaper reported.
Chheng laughed when he talked with a Dallas Morning News reporter about the incident, saying “I was drinking that night,” the newspaper reported. Probation officials finally filed a motion for a revocation hearing in the spring of 2007. Chheng testified that he’d never missed a meeting with a probation officer — a lie that went undetected, the newspaper reported.
Chheng also told the judge that he’d done volunteer work at a Grand Prairie animal shelter. Shelter officials told the newspaper that they had no record of him and said they don’t accept volunteers who are on probation for violent crimes, the newspaper reported.
The judge allowed Chheng to remain on probation, but ordered him to serve 30 days in jail, the newspaper reported.
The Thompsons, though, hope there will be another revocation hearing, and they hope a judge will say Chheng has violated his probation and sentence him to prison.
“I’d like it to be for 99 years,” Joyce Thompson said.
In the meantime, she said, “justice has been perverted.”