Byron Black, Tennessee
Updated: Monday, August 15, 2022
Tennessee planned to execute Byron Lewis Black on Thursday, August 18, 2022. Byron’s execution at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institute in Nashville has been stayed. Sixty-six-year-old Byron is convicted of murdering 29-year-old Angela Clay, and her two daughters, 9-year-old Latoya, and 6-year-old Lakeishsa on March 28, 1988, in Davidson County, Tennessee. Byron has spent the last 33 years on death row in Tennessee.
Byron’s mother was alleged to have smoked and drank while she was pregnant with him. Multiple people testified that Byron appeared to struggle with homework and appeared to be slightly mentally challenged. Byron worked as a courier for an insurance company and seemed to be a good and well-liked employee. His job was described as simple and routine.
Byron Black had previously been arrested and was serving a two-year sentence for shooting Bennie Clay, husband of Angela Clay. Bennie and Angela had split up and Angela began dating Black. Black and Bennie had a dispute over Angela in December 1986, resulting in Black shooting at Bennie, who survived. Black was given a two-year workhouse sentence, which included weekend furloughs.
On Friday, March 25, 1988, Black was released on his weekend furlough. He returned to the workhouse in the evening on Monday, March 28, 1988. Later that evening police went to Angela’s apartment after her family was unable to get in contact with her. Angela’s family members had gone to her apartment and knocked on the door but received no response. Angela’s car was parked outside the apartment and the shades were drawn inside the apartment, prompting the family to call the police.
Police arrived at Angela’s apartment around 9:30 pm on Monday, March 28, 1988. No signs of forced entry were found. Police were able to enter the apartment through a window. All the lights were off in the apartment. When the officer shined a light into a bedroom, he saw a pool of blood and the body of a child. The officer left the room, and police secured the scene.
Angela and Latoya’s bodies were discovered in the master bedroom. Both had been lying on the bed, under the covers, when shot and had died within minutes of being shot. Lakeisha was found in her bedroom, on the floor next to the bed. She had also been shot and killed, although evidence showed she attempted to protect herself from the attacker.
Police discovered that Black’s fingerprints were the only fingerprints on the telephones in the apartment. The kitchen telephone receiver was found in the master bedroom, and the telephone from the master bedroom was in the hallway.
An upstairs neighbor and her daughter told police that between 1 am and 1:30 am, they heard a total of four loud noises, like a hammer hitting a countertop. The noise woke them up and they looked outside but were unable to see anything, although they thought the noises had come from the apartment below them. The upstairs neighbor had also witnessed Angela and Black arguing just days before the murders, and weeks earlier, Black had threatened to kick down Angela’s door when she would not let him in.
When Black was informed of Angela’s death, he appeared visibly upset, shocked, and distraught. However when detectives entered the room, his demeanor changed. He stopped crying and appeared “dull.” Black gave different statements to police over the next several hours. Initially denying anything to do with their deaths, Black later claimed that he had discovered the bodies and may have touched the telephones. He claimed he did not call the police or for assistance because he did not want to get involved.
Police were later able to match the bullet recovered from Bennie’s shooting to the bullets used in the murder of Angela and her children. All had been shot by the same weapon.
Black claimed he was at his mother’s house the night of the murders. Black’s mother and nephew testified on his behalf at the trial, claiming he was at Black’s mother’s house all night.
Black was sentenced to death for the murder of Lakeisha and was given two life terms for the murders of Angela and Latoya. He was also given a 15-year sentence for a burglary conviction.
Byron Black was first scheduled to be executed on October 8, 2020. That execution was rescheduled for Thursday, April 8, 2021, due to the coronavirus. In December of 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court indefinitely postponed Byron’s execution “because of multiple issues caused by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.” Byron’s lawyers had previously requested that his execution be halted as the coronavirus was adversely affecting their ability to prepare a clemency petition because they were unable to meet with experts, Byron’s family, and arrange for medical testing to determine Byron’s competency. Allegedly, Byron also suffers from physical ailments that prevent him from walking.
Most recently, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee halted all executions scheduled for 2022. The pause in executions is to allow time for an independent investigation into the lethal injection testing oversight that resulted in a temporary reprieve earlier this year. Governor Lee maintains that he supports the use of capital punishment and wants to ensure any operational failures within the Tennessee Department of Corrections are addressed before moving forward with executions.
Pray for peace and healing for the family of Angela, Latoya, and Lakeisha. Pray for strength for the family of Bryon Black. Please pray that if Byron is innocent, lacks the mental competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be provided before his execution. Pray that Byron may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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