February 13, 2023 | By: Riley Platt
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida, Applied Journalism class.
On a September night in 2005, a single mother was scheduled to work her second job at Godfather’s, a Kansas City pizza joint.
She never showed up.
Caught in a crossfire during an argument, Tyszu Smith died that night.
Nearly 20 years later, her family is still searching for answers, holding out hope that whoever shot their loved one will be brought to justice.
Smith was born in Kansas City, Kansas, the middle child of 3 siblings. Tyszu (pronounced Tye-Sue) or Tosha, as her family called her, stood out — breaking records on the track and basketball court and teaching herself how to play the piano. “Music was a huge part of who she was”, her sister Tamika McClaine recalled.
“[She had] vast musical taste, everything from the Bee Gees to Randy Travis, hip-hop, and gospel,” McClaine said.
“My mom, when she was growing up was very artistic, she was very creative when it came to expressing herself” said Sha’Kayla, Tyszu’s daughter.
Smith was forced to grow up quickly, though, preventing her from further pursuing these passions. After becoming a single mother in college, she did whatever she could to provide, working two jobs at the time of her death.
Tyszu worked as an administrative assistant at AutoZone and a General Manager at Godfather’s pizza.
Sha’Kayla expressed, “I want everyone to remember her as sunshine. Whenever my mom came into a room, my mom could brighten up the room with her smile, laughter and personality.”
On that Friday evening, Smith picked up her boyfriend, who police said had gotten into bad standing with a local drug dealer.
The car that Smith and her boyfriend were in was fired at, and upon her boyfriend’s instruction, she exited the vehicle and began to run.
Seconds later, a bullet struck her, killing her on impact.
Smith’s family had always been “extremely stoic,” according to McClaine, but this usual fortitude dissipated upon learning of what had happened.
“My aunt called at 6 o’clock in the morning screaming, and I had never heard that response ever,” McClaine said. “I just heard her say ‘Tyszu’s dead!’ and I jumped out of the bed and couldn’t get it together.”
That pain was compounded by issues the family had with how they felt police investigated the crime.
Tyszu was the epitome of a single mom, raising Sha’Kayla, doing everything she could. “I can only hope that one day, someday, someone will be courageous enough to come forward.” “I need to close this part of my life so that I can be a better person, to continue my mom’s legacy”. Expressed Sha’Kayla.
The family does have one glimmer of hope: Kansas City police recently reviewed the case, 17 years later. The family is optimistic that they will get answers.
Sha’Kayla wants the world to know her mom had a heart of gold. “She did everything for everyone, she always put other people before herself .“
Sha’Kayla remembers growing up they use to take frequent road trips to the drive-in movie theaters and camping trips where they would bond over old school, music, and life.
The lasting impact that something like losing a mother or sister can have on one’s wellbeing is hard to put into words. While these wounds will never fully heal, Smith’s family has been able to learn from loss and apply these lessons to their lives today.
Anyone with information on the unsolved murder of Tyszu Smith is asked to contact the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477). You can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
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