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Broken: Accused killer's mom says Kyle Yorlets didn't have to die

'I was reaching for help,' but system did nothing
Posted: 8:07 AM, Jan 30, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-31 17:23:44-05
Martine Wright tears.jpg
Kyle Yorlets.jpg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Nashville musician Kyle Yorlets was gunned down in February 2019, an entire city came to recognize his face.

For the mother of Yorlets' accused killer, 16-year-old Decorrius Wright, it's a face that she cannot get out of her mind.

"I lay in my bed at night and I picture his face all the time," said Martine Wright, as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Even the sight of men who look like Yorlets can bring her to tears.

"All I saw was Mr. Kyle's face," Wright said, recalling a man who came to her work. "All I saw was his face because the man looked so much like him."

Imagining what Yorlets' mother must be feeling also makes her cry.

Martine Wright tears.jpg
Martine Wright

"When I seen her in court for the first time, I couldn't even look at her because I knew how hurt she was - because I would be hurt if my child was taken away from me. So, yes, I think about Mr. Kyle and his family all the time."

Martine Wright remembered the moment that she first learned Decorrius was in trouble.

"The only thing I could do was stand on my front porch - it was nighttime - and look up into the sky and yell and scream out, 'Decorrious, what have you done? What have y'all done?'"

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "You were devastated."

"Yes," she answered.

Looking back, Decorrius' mom said the little boy whom she raised by herself for the first six years of his life could never have committed such a horrible crime.

"He was like an average child - you know, playful, loved to play with his friends outside," she recalled. "He loved his brother, his sister."

One picture stands out in her mind.

"He looks so innocent and lovable," Martine noted.

But around age 12, something happened with Decorrius.

"Not listening to the teachers and being suspended," she remembered.

He was expelled from school, sent to alternative school, where he also got kicked out.

Mental health professionals diagnosed him with ADHD and gave him medication, but Martine couldn't be there to give it to him.

"I worked every morning, so I wasn't able to give Decorrious his medications in the morning time," she said.

"I had the school to give it to him after he eat breakfast every morning. The school ended up letting me know that they couldn't make Decorrious take the medicine if he didn't want to take it. So basically he wasn't on the medication like he should have been."

At 13, Decorrius was arrested with some other kids in a stolen car.

He was given a probation officer and put on pre-trial diversion.

But, when his mother tried to report he was acting out, she said she got nowhere.

"So the people who I talked to, I'm like, 'So who is his PO?' No one never gave me any information about it. I never heard anything else about a PO."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Nothing happened to him?"

"Nothing happened."

We continued, "Do you think that was part of the problem?"

"Yes," she answered.

"Small things leads up to big things. You know when you start doing small things and not be punished for it, then sometimes you are going to feel like, well, I can go out and steal another car."

And Decorrius continued to run away.

Police would pick him up, take him to Juvenile Court, where they would call his mother to take him back home and start all over again.

"They basically told me in front of Decorrius, in Decorrious' face, that they don't do anything about runaways," Martine remembered.

Her reaction?

"I was very upset. First of all, I was upset because she said this in front of Decorrius. By them telling me in his face that they don't do anything, he feel like, well, I can stay out all night whenever I get ready."

It was a cycle that would keep repeating.

Martine tried calling various juvenile facilities that might be able to help - before her son got into real trouble.

"Basically what they was telling me was Decorrius had to have serious charges in order for them to accept them," she said.

"So one day I called DCS to ask DCS what did I need to do. Once I called them, they made me feel like I was crazy for calling DCS on myself."

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NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "You just wanted some help in raising this child."

"Not as much for raising him," she responded, "but to get him back on the right track."

In late 2018, Martine sent Decorrius to Mississippi for a few months to live with his dad.

But when he got home in December, the cycle continued - arrested again for auto theft, picked up again for running away.

The most recent time came just three days before Kyle Yorlets would be shot.

Again, Juvenile Court called her to come pick up her troubled son.

"I didn't think it was a good idea, she recalled. "That's why I didn't answer the phone - because I knew what they wanted. And they kept calling and calling, so I eventually answered the phone. I asked them what if I don't come and get him."

Their answer?

"Their answer was, well, we will have to file child neglect charges against me, yes."

Even when she went to Juvenile Court, Martine says she warned a guard about social media posts showing that Decorrius was fooling around with guns.

"She told me basically there wasn't anything they could do about it," she said.

Back home, he took off again.

Eventually, police called his mom to let her know Decorrius was finally in custody - one of the five juveniles arrested for the murder of Kyle Yorlets.

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Kyle Yorlets

"I can't say that I blame the system, because the system isn't the one who pulled the trigger," Martine said, again wiping away tears.

"I blame the system some, but at the end of the day Decorrious, he's the one who pulled the trigger. They say he's the one who pulled the trigger."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Do you think the system failed Decorrious?"

"Yes, I do," she replied. "If they would have been there when I was reaching for help, maybe he could have been saved from this."

And when Decorrius and three other juveniles were allowed to escape back in November, his mother was furious.

"You know if a child can leave the facility and they've been locked up for almost a year, that's what they are going to do - especially when they don't know when they'll ever be able to get out again. So I blame the system once again for that."

Now prosecutors are asking that Decorrius be transferred to the adult system and tried as an adult.

His mother's reaction?

"I feel like, of course, he has to do some kind of time because Mr. Kyle was an innocent victim, but not his whole life."

Still, she wonders how things might have been different - for her son and for Kyle Yorlets - if the system had not been so broken.

"This is like a nightmare to me and my family, a nightmare that I wouldn't want no other parents or family to go through."

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