MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A couple killed their former lovers and embarked on a multi-state, deadly rampage that left a father from Memphis dead.
It happened on May 17, 2021. That night, Michelle WIlliams’ home stood still. Her partner and father of her children, Danterrio Coats, never came home from work.
“I just remember having that feeling that something had happened. Something has happened,” she said. “That’s when I called his mom.”
Rhonda Harwell will never forget that conversation.
“I said, maybe he fell asleep and went off the road,” Harwell said.
They tried retracing his steps. Minutes turned to hours then to daylight when Harwell heard from Memphis Police.
“They asked me to come in. My cousin drove me downtown,” she said. “We got to the 10th floor. I said, ‘You know what floor we are on? We are on the homicide floor. They are going to tell me my son is dead.”
Coats was found shot to death in the road in Raleigh.
“Who would do something like this? They said they got a lead,” Harwell said.
Six hundred miles away in Chester County, South Carolina a manhunt was underway.
A couple led law enforcement on a high speed chase, firing shots at five deputies and striking at least two squad cars.
The woman, Adrienne Simpson, surrendered, but her boyfriend, Tyler Terry, ran into thick woods where hundreds of law enforcement officers would spend the next week trying to find him.
Our sister station in Charlotte was there when they finally did.
“He’s all cut up. Got bug bites. Clothes are torn,” authorities on the scene said.
In custody, authorities said Simpson and Terry confessed to a month-long crime spree spanning multiple states. Detectives say they stole, robbed, killed five people and injured several more.
WREG Investigators uncovered South Carolina police records detailing how it started.
Officers say they conducted a welfare check on May 2, 2021, and they found Terry’s former lover dead fatally shot in his home. Terry’s lover “was openly gay and enjoyed dressing in women’s clothes,” and he and Terry would “frequently break up but get back together.”
Terry wasn’t clear why he killed him, but that Simpson was his getaway driver.
That same day, the pair also killed Simpson’s husband and father of her children and dumped his body in a ditch.
Before leaving the state, they also broke into a home and shot at two men, and also opened fire in a drive-through injuring another.
Thirteen days later, our sister station in St. Louis, Missouri reported on a rash of shootings in their area. Shots fired on an interstate. The driver narrowly escaped.
Another happened in a suburb. An elderly couple’s car shot up. Police said a bullet hit the man’s cell phone saving his life, but sadly, his 71-year-old wife died in the hospital.
No relationship was found between the victims, authorities said after it happened.
They also responded to a third scene outside a restaurant where a doctor was killed in a robbery.
Police said Terry and Simpson were responsible for the three shootings and left town in a vehicle with a stolen license plate.
It was a different car than the one seen two days later in Memphis.
What happened in Memphis
“It’s hard to believe that two people with a minimal record would engage in this crime spree,” Shelby County prosecutor Alanda Dwyer said.
She said it isn’t clear why they stopped in Memphis.
What we do know is that the pair pulled their car over on Schiebler Road and put the hood up. Terry hid in the backseat. Simpson acted distressed.
“They said the next victim who comes down the road, they were going to kill and rob him. Who was that victim? It was my child,” Harwell said.
She wasn’t surprised her son stopped to help.
“That’s what his mother instilled in him. Being a gentleman and always being there to help people,” she said.
Detectives said 44 seconds after Coats stopped, Simpson shot him.
“You took a father and a son. You took my everything. I go out to a cemetery every day to talk to my child,” Harwell said.
“I didn’t understand why these people would do this,” said Reaver Harwell.
Coats was Harwell’s nephew, but more like a son.
“Sometimes people can say, ‘Why did he do what he did and stopped to help somebody.’ That’s who he is. He don’t care who you are. He would go out of his way to help someone out,” he said.
Last November, Terry and Simpson pleaded guilty to the crimes they committed in South Carolina.
“We all agreed they would plead guilty to life without the possibility of parole. They would serve the sentence in South Carolina,” Dwyer said.
In July, Simpson was extradited to Shelby County and entered her guilty plea. Weeks later, Terry followed suit.
Williams was there and told Terry, “You did something very, very evil. Forgiveness is something I don’t know I can do.”
“He just nodded, and it was like I have heard all of this before,” Williams said in our interview.
The pair were taken back to South Carolina. They are waiting extradition to Missouri, where they are expected to enter guilty pleas there.
To this day, investigators still don’t know what drove the killing spree.
“It’s just a crazy set of facts,” Dwyer said.
Crazy. Tragic. The lives they took are irreplaceable.
Coats was just 34 years old.
“He was the stronghold of our family,” Williams added.
A man who did what so many wouldn’t. He tried to help a stranger.