This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Teon Wiley loved his family and animals, especially his dogs. Teon is remembered by his husband, Robert Wilkins-Wiley, as a kind and passionate person.
“As the years went by, I never heard him say anything bad about anybody,” said Robert.
In honor of Teon’s kindness, Robert believes his murderer, if caught, should be given a second chance. In late January 2020, after a trip to the convenience store in Memphis, Tennessee, Teon was shot multiple times and killed at the age of 37. His murder remains unsolved.
Growing up in Memphis, Teon and his siblings were in and out of foster care. As a teenager, Teon ran away from his foster home, staying in abandoned houses and cars, according to Robert. Teon struggled through his late teens and early 20s, but overcame those struggles. Teon and Robert met in 2001 after Robert had recently lost someone close to HIV.
Robert said he “thought [he] had saw a ghost” because he recognized his late friend’s wonderful smile in Teon. After running into each other the next day, they became friends and found they had much in common. They later fell in love.
Robert and Teon were married on March 2, 2016 and settled down in Memphis. Teon worked as a cook at a local Memphis barbeque spot. He crafted his skills at home. “He liked frying and grilling. I’m good at baking,” Robert said. “That’s how we got along in the kitchen.” Teon especially enjoyed family time, cooking, and playing with his dogs. He also encouraged others to be forgiving and kind. “I remember what Teon taught me,” Robert says, “that everyone deserves a second chance.”
On January 30, 2020, Teon was outside a convenience store on Overton Crossing Street in Memphis, Tennessee when a man asked him for a dollar. After saying no, Teon went inside the store. As he was leaving, the man followed him into the small parking lot and shot him, 800 feet from Teon and Robert’s home.
An acquaintance who knew Teon from riding the bus discovered Teon on the ground and stayed with him while waiting for police and rescue to arrive. Robert takes some comfort knowing Teon wasn’t alone as took his final breaths. The initial police canvas found a witness to the shooting. According to Crime Stoppers, a picture of a person of interest in a red sweatshirt and ripped denim jeans was later released with a reward for answers, but no one stepped forward with information.
Following the murder, Robert said, intolerance compounded his grief. After calling the hospital three times, attempting to gather information on the incident, a nurse advised him to come in and bring someone with him.
He wanted to find out what was happening, since he had not been contacted by police yet. Along with Teon’s brother, Robert went down to the hospital, but says he was met with prejudice and never acknowledged by employees at the hospital.
According to Robert, his brother-in-law was the only one receiving information about what happened, even though Robert and Teon were legally married, individuals were excluding Robert and minimizing his loss and relationship through their own biased views. When Robert later requested that Teon be interred in a side-by-side grave with Robert’s own burial plot, he says he was told by local officials at the Health Department they could not do that for him since the couple was not husband and wife.
Robert said he went numb following Teon’s murder and could not come to terms with the death for almost a year. He tried to get answers from police during that time but was unsuccessful. At one point, a detective told Robert it would take a miracle to solve Teon’s case. After being consumed with grief, Robert says, he finally found some peace and believes the murderer should be rehabilitated and given a second chance in honor of Teon. “I believe in my heart that Teon would say to give him a second chance. If they caught him today, I wouldn’t have closure – Teon isn’t coming back. To hound him like an evil person and not work to rehabilitate him, he would be in a place to do it again. His family would suffer and no one would get what we needed in the end.”
Robert believes justice is just knowing why his husband was killed. He believes once he gets that answer, he can move forward with his life.
Teon will be remembered by his friends and family as a loving and strong person who was always full of life. Just look at his picture for a glimpse into that life.
If you have information on Teon’s case please call the Memphis Police Department at 901-636-3300. To remain anonymous you are urged to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.
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