When a rising basketball star was murdered in Chicago back in May of 1993, police were hot to get the case closed. Local media stories about the disappearance of the kid police dubbed “the next Michael Jordan,” began swirling around the city. For over a week, Marshall’s parents, Marcia and Marshall Sr., scoured Chicago’s neighborhoods and vacant buildings, praying for a miracle.
Nine days after the disappearance, on Mother’s Day May 17, 20-year-old Marshall Morgan Jr. was found shot to death, half nude, in the back of an abandoned car on the south side of Chicago. Turns out the car was recently cleaned at a car wash, and detectives found no fingerprints on it, nor did they see any evidence of a struggle. But they did find something key: the killer or killers were sloppy. Someone left empty beer bottles and beer cans in the car.
When fingerprint analysis on the trash came back, a match on one of the bottles was made to Tyrone Hood, a 29-year-old married father of three. Hood was tracked down and told his prints were found at the scene of a murder, but he insisted that was impossible. Still, Hood agreed to go down to the precinct to answer questions and clear his name. Hood was questioned for hours on end, and was allegedly mistreated by Chicago police, but through it all, he maintained his innocence. After 48 hours in detention, Hood was released.
Three days later, investigators turned up second set of fingerprints that matched a beer can from the crime scene. The print belonged to Joe West, who lived just two blocks away from Hood. Police now wondered, was there a second person involved? Were Joe West and Tyrone Hood co-conspirators? Or was Hood actually innocent as he professed to be?
Frustrated, Chicago police began questioning two of Hood’s friends, Wayne Washington and Jody Rogers, who after initially denying any knowledge of the murder, suddenly changed their story. Washington and Rogers claimed Hood was the person who shot Marshall Morgan Jr. — in an armed robbery “sting” that went bad. Later, when police told Joe West that his prints were found on a beer can at the murder scene, West fingered Tyrone Hood as the murderer as well.
Convinced they had their man, Tyrone Hood was charged with the First Degree Murder of Marshall Morgan, Jr. and was convicted in April of 1996, sentenced to serve 75 years in prison. The problem was: Tyrone Hood was completely innocent.
After spending 22 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, Hood’s sentence was commuted in January 2015 by the outgoing Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn. A few weeks later, the Cook County DA dropped all charges against him and Tyrone Hood was completely exonerated.
Having interviewed Tyrone in October 2014 at the Menard Correctional Facility in Illinois, and then later having the chance to sit down with him as a free man, I can only say this is one of the most inspiring, yet twisted, cases I have ever covered.
There is something Tyrone once wrote with an unwavering faith: “Vindicated, I will be,” he insisted. And in my heart, I believed him.