Family wants new prosecutor after man who killed their son in Fayette released on bond

Torrance Evans was captain of the Central Methodist University football team when he was killed in August. His family alleges the local prosecutor is neglecting the investigation out of a ‘personal vendetta’

By: - February 13, 2023 5:55 am

Torrance Evans’ parents, Charkira Harris-Evans and Torrance Evans Sr., stand outside of the Howard County Courthouse just moments after a hearing on Jan. 18, 2023 when a judge allowed their son’s killer to be released on bond and leave Missouri awaiting trial (Rebecca Rivas/The Missouri Independent).

FAYETTE — Tears ran down Torrance Evans Sr.’s face, as he watched the freezing January rain pour down outside the Howard County Courthouse.

“This isn’t justice,” he said, pausing to catch his breath, “for killing my son.”

Moments before, a judge had allowed his son’s killer to get out on bond and leave town while awaiting trial. 

His 23-year-old son, Torrance Evans Jr., had been the captain of the football team at Central Methodist University, a small private college about 30 miles northwest of Columbia. He was set to graduate in December.

That diploma had been hard fought, not just in the classroom or on the field. 

Evans survived moments when he thought local police officers would kill him. Two years before his death, his home had been raided by police twice late at night — over charges that were later proven to be false. 

He even testified before Missouri legislators in November 2020 about experiencing excessive force and racial discrimination from local law enforcement. 

But now, his family faces a new injustice, said Nimrod Chapel, an attorney and president of the Missouri NAACP who helped represent Evans in the case involving the raid. 

Black-on-Black crime isn’t a priority in Howard County, Chapel said.

“Black victims are not getting justice,” Chapel said. “In this case, two Black lives pitted against each other are just seen as not valuable.”

Evans was killed on Aug. 25 by a Black former CMU student, Kundarrius Taylor, 23. The two had been sharing an apartment for the summer. 

According to the probable cause statement, the two were at home when Taylor allegedly pulled a gun out of his backpack and shot Evans twice.

Taylor’s family declined to comment on this story, and since being freed on bond Taylor has moved to Texas.

In early January, Howard County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Riekhof lowered the charges against Taylor from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. She did so, Riekhof confirmed during a Jan. 18 bond hearing, without seeing the medical examiner report or a completed police report.

“Now the person with the most knowledge, presumably, to complete the police investigation … is in Texas,” Chapel said, “and let go by a prosecutor and the system there that had every opportunity to complete the investigation before he left.”

Riekhof declined comment when approached in court by a reporter. 

Soon after Riekhof lowered the charges, Evans’ family filed an ethics complaint with the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel claiming she failed to properly investigate the case. The family also alleges that Riekhof has a “personal vendetta” against Evans because of the incident Evans spoke about to Missouri lawmakers. 

In the complaint, the family is requesting a different prosecutor. They have not yet received a reply.

The incident

Torrance Evans

Evans, who had a football scholarship, had been renting a house off of campus with two other football players for more than a year. 

His landlord, Bruce Quinlan, told The Independent that Evans was a respectful tenant and he had been the “spokesman” for the other players living there. 

“The house was tidy,” Quinlan said. “They must have just taken their food up to their rooms because there was no furniture on the main floor.” 

But according to Quinlan, that changed when Taylor moved in around end of spring semester.

Taylor brought seven dogs with him, Quinlan said, and the main floor became lined with dog cages.

“Whoever moved in destroyed the place,” said Quinlan, who says he never met Taylor. “There was dog crap on the floors. It was filthy.”

Quinlan said he had to completely remodel the place because of the damage Taylor’s dogs caused to the main floor. 

Evans told friends and family he didn’t want Taylor to move into the house. But his sister, Starr Evans, told The Independent the other players moved Taylor in while her brother was out of town. 

According to the probable cause statement, Taylor admitted to troopers from the Missouri Highway Patrol and officers from the Fayette Police Department that he and Evans “had not been getting along for over a month and indicated he felt disrespected by Evans on numerous occasions.” 

When asked about the shooting, Taylor told the officers: “Evans was making verbal requests and/or demands of Taylor and Taylor told Evans to wait. Taylor said Evans persisted and Taylor retrieved a handgun from his backpack, chambered a round and advised Evans to stop. Taylor said Evans advanced toward him and he shot Evans with the pistol.”

Taylor also admitted to shooting Evans a second time as he “was falling or after Evans had fallen.” 

Then Taylor left the house and went on campus with the gun. For that, he is charged with a Class E felony for unlawful use of a weapon.

The university

Central Methodist University (Rebecca Rivas/The Missouri Independent).

Central Methodist University President Roger Drake said the college held a service for Evans after his death. 

“I went around to the faculty and asked about him,” Drake said. “They called him a gentle giant.”

Evans was in good academic standing, he said. 

Taylor, on the other hand, had been a student for a short time but had been deemed ineligible to return to CMU due to his grades, Drake said. However, he was still practicing with the football team in hopes of changing that status. Taylor’s brother had been a star football player and popular student at CMU previously, he said, which is among the reasons Taylor was pushing hard to follow in that legacy.

When the incident happened, Drake said he was on the scene within five minutes.

Taylor had called his friends, Drake said, and they urged him to call his coach and ask what he should do. CMU football Coach David Calloway was out of cell phone range, Drake said, but finally was reached. 

“Coach Calloway called the accused and said ‘You need to come down and turn yourself in,’” Drake said. 

Taylor walked from campus to the scene, Drake said, and “the police without incident, they calmly and peacefully took him into custody.” 

Taylor’s defense attorney Benjamin Faber told the judge at the January hearing that Taylor didn’t run. 

“He stayed right where he was,” Faber said. “He actually contacted his coach, and his coach said, ‘All right, well, we need to get in touch with law enforcement, you need to talk to them and let this thing play out.’ That’s exactly what he did.”

Out of control

Starr Evans recalled two days before Mother’s Day, one of the other roommates living in the house, Davion Stockard, called her brother while he was visiting her in Tennessee. They were watching TV, and he put the call on speaker. 

Stockard kept saying that he couldn’t control Taylor, she said, and that Evans had to come home.

Evans went outside to talk to him, his sister said, and when he came back said: “That’s why I didn’t want him to move in there from the beginning because they act like they’re scared to tell him anything.”

The roommates kept calling him, she said, and Evans went back home a couple days later to deal with it.

At the courthouse after the January hearing, Stockard told The Independent that he had been living with Evans for a year and half.

“This has definitely taken a toll on me,” he said.

During the interview, Taylor’s mother came over and told him to stop the interview. Stockard complied. 

‘A huge loss’

Torrance Evans, a Central Methodist University senior and captain of the football team, stands with his family after a game. Evans was shot and killed on Aug. 25, 2022 by Kundarrius Taylor, a former CMU student (Photo submitted).

A year before Evans’ murder, Riekhof tried to prosecute Evans for a felony charge of “resisting arrest and fleeing.” 

The charge came after Evans’ former roommate, Christopher Turner, was wrongfully charged with assaulting a man he swore he’d never met. 

In the months Turner awaited a trial on the charges, police twice busted down his door in the middle of the night twice and arrested him at gunpoint. Evans’ charge stemmed from the second time police raided their house.

The charges against Turner were eventually dropped, but Riekhof still pursued Evans’ resisting arrest charge. 

On the day Turner was set free just before Juneteenth in 2021, civil rights activists cheered his release outside the courthouse. 

But it was also somber because they worried Riekhof was going to come down hard on Evans to “save face,” said Justice Gaston, an activist from Kansas City who helped Turner and Evans with their case. 

That day, their supporters urged Evans to leave Fayette for his safety. 

Evans told The Independent outside the courthouse that day that he earned his scholarship and his right to finish his studies. 

“At the end of the day,” Evans said, “I’m not going to leave just because people don’t like to see me or don’t want me to be here.”

Evans’ charges were eventually dropped as well.

Howard County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Riekhof

In Turner’s case, Riekhof initially proposed a 15-year sentence with a $50,000 cash-only bond for the assault charge. That meant Turner would’ve had to post the full $50,000 to be released from jail while awaiting trial.

At the Jan. 18 hearing for Taylor, Riekhof proposed a $50,000 bond, which meant Taylor only had to post 10%, or $5,000, to be set free. 

“At this point, based on the evidence, I don’t believe that [Taylor] is a danger to the community,” Riekhof told the judge at the bond hearing. 

She also told the judge that Evans’ family wasn’t happy about her proposing bond.

Judge Scott Hayes set the bond at $250,000, and the bond was posted on Jan. 20, according to court records.

Starr Evans said Riekhof met with the family in early January and spent most of the meeting talking about the previous resisting arrest charge and how frustrated she had been with Evans during that case. 

Attorney Kylar Broadus, who represented Turner and Evans in the previous case, said news of the murder struck him hard. 

“I loved Torrance,” Broadus said. “He was a model young Black man that was going places.”

This was a “huge loss” for his family and friends, he said.

“There’s a devaluing of Black men in the criminal justice system in this country,” Broadus said. “And if we don’t seek justice for all people, then to quote Dr. King, ‘An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.’

And this definitely was an injustice towards Torrance.”

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Rebecca Rivas
Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas is a multimedia reporter who covers Missouri's cannabis industry. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, including more than a decade as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation’s leading African-American newspaper.