Stephanie Houston couldn’t get her daughter’s killer to look her in the eyes, so she made sure she was heard.
Her voice boomed as she called him “the devil” and “a monster,” slamming her fist down on a table as she condemned him to a lifetime of suffering for taking Muhlaysia Booker from her in 2019.
“Nothing but hell and death is going to come to you,” Houston said. “I’m talking to you, Kendrell Lyles. You are the devil and you have no victory here. Your reign is over.”
Booker’s family and friends faced Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 37, in a courtroom outside downtown Dallas Thursday morning for the first time since he was sentenced to 48 years in prison after accepting a deal with prosecutors Monday. Lyles’ hands were cuffed behind his back and he wore a surgical mask up to his eyes as he listened, appearing impassive throughout.
Houston has said she considers the sentence justice, though she had hoped for capital punishment for Lyles, who also faces two additional murder charges in Collin County, according to court records. Capital murder is punishable by the death penalty or life without parole, while murder is punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison. Lyles pleaded guilty to the latter.
Booker, 22, was found dead about 6:30 a.m. May 18, 2019, in the 7200 block of Valley Glen Drive, near Ferguson Road in Far East Dallas. A month prior, a video that circulated online showed Booker, a transgender woman, being punched and kicked repeatedly in the parking lot of an apartment complex. She suffered a concussion and broken wrist from the beating, which started after a car accident.
Police wrote in an arrest-warrant affidavit that Booker had been picked up in South Dallas the day she died about three hours earlier by someone driving a light-colored early 2000s Lincoln LS.
A witness who picked Lyles out of a photo lineup told police he was known to frequent the 2800 block of Lagow Street “to meet with transgender prostitutes,” the affidavit said. Another person confirmed that a champagne-colored 2001 Lincoln LS parked in front of a West Dallas apartment building belonged to him.
Using cellphone records, police determined his phone was in the area at the time of the shooting and in the same areas as Booker’s phone afterward, according to the affidavit.
With tears streaming down her face, Houston told the courtroom Thursday that Lyles put three bullets in Booker’s head and neck before tossing her out of his car “like trash,” wearing nothing but her bra and underwear.
“I warned Muhlaysia about monsters like you,” Houston said. “You hear me devil? I warned my baby about the devil and that day, she got in the car with the devil.”
La’Quincia Taylor, Booker’s sister, said she had planned to use her remarks to ask Lyles why he did it. Now, she said, she knows.
“Because you’re a coward,” Taylor told Lyles. “You know you’re not no man. That gun made you feel like you had power, but you don’t got no power. I serve a good God, and you will reap what you sow.”
Jordan Ford, a close friend of Booker’s, said Booker’s death left those who loved her “forever scarred.”
Ford referred back to the beating, a moment he said could have broken Booker’s spirit, but instead propelled her to be outspoken. She went on to give speeches about the hate and violence facing the LGBTQ community, and took to social media to mentor young people who were struggling to understand their gender identity.
“We will forever be hurt from this loss of an extraordinary individual who had so much to offer the world,” Ford said. “So, I want you to know and everybody else to know: trans lives matter.”
Last to speak was Audrey Spead, Booker’s aunt.
“Mr. Lyles, you can’t even look at me, can you?” Spead began. “You can’t even look at me because Muhlaysia and I look alike.”
Spead said she spent the past four and a half years wondering what she would say to Lyles if ever given the chance. She was brief, settling on ensuring Lyles knew Booker was both loved and missed.
Then, echoing Houston, she told him her hopes for his future.
“I hope every day of the 48 years … you remember over and over,” she said. “I hope you can’t even sleep at night knowing that you took away a valuable person.”
In a moment of reflection outside the courtroom, Houston told reporters she was grateful to have finally told Lyles the toll of his actions on her family. But it was that moment, she said, that proved an irredeemable truth: He has no remorse.
“What happened to her, it wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair and it ain’t over,” Houston said. “Her spirit is still with us.”