Forrest and Perry County District Attorney Lin Carter announced today that Jatyran Martel Tuggle was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for his convictions of capital murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery in the City of Hattiesburg.
On July 20, 2019, three men burst into the Steelman Grocery Store, located at 600 East Side Drive, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and opened fire, killing the clerk and long-time owner of Steelman Grocery, Lisa Ngyuen. They also fired several times upon a customer at the counter, missing him. They grabbed the cash register and ran to a waiting vehicle and sped away.
The Hattiesburg Police Department (HPD) immediately responded to the scene and were able to determine the vehicle was black in color, with a missing hubcap on the front passenger tire. With this knowledge, detectives quickly began canvassing the route the vehicle was seen driving, searching stores and businesses for possible surveillance footage of the black vehicle. They were successful and had multiple videos showing the vehicle drive to Highway 49 and proceed north.
The detectives were able to use video to track the vehicle traveling north on Highway 49 through the cities of Collins, Magee, and eventually Richland, Mississippi, where it passed a known tag-reader operated by the Richland Police Department. The vehicle was a 2013 Dodge Avenger and was registered to Tuggle with a Jackson, Mississippi address.
Hattiesburg police, with the assistance of officers from the Jackson Police Department, found Tuggle and brought him back to the HPD for questioning. Through questioning Tuggle, and further investigation, HPD was able to arrest Christopher Tyce, Stephon Hart and Eric Williams, and the three men who killed Ngyuen. Tuggle was also arrested for knowingly being the driver to the armed robbery, which resulted in the death of Ngyuen. The suspects’ cellular telephones were seized and analyzed by a digital forensics expert from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which yielded more evidence of their involvement and planning of the armed robbery.
All four suspects were indicted for crimes of capital murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery by a Forrest County Grand Jury. Tyce was also indicted for the crimes of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Tyce pled guilty to capital murder on April 8, 2021, and was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich to life without the possibility of parole.
On November 15, 2021, Tuggle went to trial on his indicted charges in Harrison County Circuit Court, as venue was moved due to pre-trial publicity. After a three day trial, led by Assistant District Attorneys Bryan Buckley and Clay Cranford, the jury found Tuggle guilty of both counts. Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole for his conviction of capital murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
District Attorney Lin Carter stated, “This was a senseless and brutal crime by criminals from Jackson. I am proud of the Hattiesburg Police Department, who did an outstanding job of solving these crimes and making such quick arrests. Nothing we do will bring back the life of Lisa Ngyuen, but I hope these convictions can help her family move forward from this tragedy.”
Carter concluded, “My office will vigorously prosecute those who commit violence crimes in our counties and will always help victims obtain justice.”
The remaining defendants, Stephon Hart and Eric Williams, will go to trial on November 29 and December 6, respectively, this year.
District Attorney Lin Carter was sworn into office in January 2020 and represents the Twelfth Judicial District, Forrest and Perry Counties.