A Tucson man is facing a life sentence after being convicted Friday morning of murdering a 38-year-old mother of three in April 2007 as part of an elaborate plot that included framing her ex-husband and obtaining her life insurance policy.
Tyrone Little Cisco, 34, will be sentenced next month by Judge Clark Munger in the death of Sheril Smith.
According to prosecutor Rick Unklesbay and court testimony, Cisco moved in with Smith and her 15-year-old daughter, Aisha, in the summer of 2006. Cisco was a distant relative to the Smiths.
Shortly thereafter, Cisco began making Smith and her daughter write letters saying they were deathly afraid of Smith's former husband and the girl's father, Xavier Smith Sr.
Two months before Smith died, Cisco took out a $1 million life insurance policy on her and a $500,000 policy on her daughter.
Aisha Smith testified that on the day her mother died, Cisco was wearing gloves and laid down in the back seat of their car as the three of them drove to Ora Mae Harn Park in Marana.
Cisco and her mother said they were going hunting and they dropped her off at the park, Aisha Smith testified.
Smith's body was found later that day on farmland west of Marana near West Trico-Marana and North Hardin roads.
During closing arguments Thursday, Unklesbay told jurors there is plenty of circumstantial evidence linking Cisco to Smith's death. He was the last one seen with her alive and the shotgun he returned to a friend the same day as the slaying could not be ruled out as the murder weapon.
There is also evidence Cisco went back to the park after killing Smith to find and kill Aisha Smith, Unklesbay said.
The life insurance policies provided Cisco "a lot of motivation," Unklesbay said.
The fact Smith was shot five times clearly shows whoever murdered her did so with premeditation, Unklesbay said.
"The evidence in this case points in one direction only," Unklesbay said.
Assistant Pima County Public Defender Jacob Amaru tried to convince jurors Xavier Smith Sr. is the more likely suspect.
Witnesses testified Smith tried for years to get away from Xavier Smith, but she kept going back to him, thus proving he had an inordinate amount of control over her, Amaru said.
She was so terrified of Xavier Smith she carried an order of protection she'd taken out against him everywhere she went, Amaru said. In fact, it was found underneath her body.
It's almost as if the killer wanted to say "This protected you a whole lot," Amaru said.
Smith's wounds weren't consistent with an execution, they were consistent with rage, Amaru said.
In order for Cisco to be the killer, jurors would have to believe Smith's letters were the result of her being a "crazy liar," Amaru said.
They would also have to believe Cisco was "some mastermind manipulator," he said.
Cisco is facing life with the possibility of release after 25 years or a natural life sentence.