How an ex-Marine and liar became a hit man

An in-depth look at David Tyner, the "Cathouse" killer, and his victims

How an ex-Marine and liar became a hit man
Tim Lane

His ears were a good conversation starter. Misshapen, the cartilage calcified by years spent scraping against sweat-soaked wrestling mats, they looked alien, possibly malignant. Ask about them and he'd tell you: two-time freestyle All-American from Salina, Oklahoma. Runner-up in the nationals. It was one of the few stories of his that had any truth to it.

"Byrd" is all anyone ever called him. Ask about David Tyner and you get a blank stare. Correct yourself and they say, "Oh, Byrd. I knew him."

Some of his friends say his mother gave him the nickname because he ate sparingly as a child. Others believe it was because he enjoyed climbing trees and nearly fell once, though birds generally don't do that.

In any case, everyone in town knew of Byrd Tyner: Oklahoma high school wrestling meets were as big as some college matches. He was happy, playful, and loved being the center of attention. He was a Marine, too, though not everyone knew he once stuck an M-16 in his mouth in Iraq and was going to blow his brains out, swear to God, even though he never actually bit down on the thing until another soldier walked in.

He was shipped back home and tried cage fighting, and that was fun until he realized his halfhearted approach to training could get him seriously hurt.

At some point, Byrd Tyner reached his ceiling. Nearing 30 and working menial jobs, he and his bulbous ears began to open up to other sales pitches. Maybe the problem was being Byrd. Maybe ambling through life, blowing a scholarship, and drinking with your friends wasn't going to set you up. Not with a child to support.

Maybe you need to look at alternative sources of revenue, and, when it comes down to it, prove you're the man you say you are by stealing someone's last breath while they fight for both their life and the life of their unborn child.

Later, you could ask someone about David Tyner in Oklahoma City and get that same blank stare. Byrd doesn't register, either. So you describe him: five-nine, built wide, the pride of Locust Grove High. Half Cherokee Indian. Ears like chewed-up bubblegum.

Oh. You mean Hooligan.


Tyner had one more nickname: Stan. It stood for Shit, That Ain't Nothin', and was in tribute to Tyner's refusal to be outdone during bullshit sessions around the smoke pit at Twentynine Palms, California. That was where the Marines had stationed the 21-year-old as a motor transport operator in 2003, driving and maintaining vehicles that lent support to other soldiers.

"If someone said they had four acres, Tyner would say he had seventeen," says Travis Fugate, a fellow Marine. "If someone had fought two guys, he'd say he fought off four. Said he caught fish with his bare hands. That he was a gigolo. He'd lie about the stupidest shit."

Mostly, Tyner would play the one-upper game. Other times, he'd sit stone-faced and tell the men in the barracks about being a hit man for the New York and Chicago mobs. One job, he said, netted him $50,000. The client wanted the target to drop dead in front of his wife, so Tyner posted himself on the roof of a building in Milwaukee and waited for the couple to situate themselves on a patio. He shot the man dead at 300 yards. No scope.

"No scope," Fugate laughs. "He could be pretty convincing, but he'd go too far."

Tyner would have had to do some fast and spectacular networking to set himself up as a Mafia contractor. After his wrestling scholarship at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga was pulled due to poor academic performance in spring 2000, he spent one listless fall semester at Bacone College, where the coach bounced him for a miserable work ethic. He drank, smoked dope, and never set foot on the mat — a far cry from the devotion he had displayed in high school for Coach Johnny Cook, who saw Tyner as a leader and a standout wrestler.

"He'd practice two or three times a day," Cook says. "Was as solid a kid as you'll find."

Tyner stuck up for the bullied; a night of hell-raising would be a few beers and maybe whizzing past some cops on the back roads. Fights were few and far between: Tyner was, in the vernacular of Oklahoma, a "hoss" — barrel-chested and built like a brick. He was so sold on wrestling that his family moved from Salina to the Locust Grove school district, where he stood the best chance of getting into a Division I program. Long-term, he thought he might transition into a career as a coach.

Poor grades ended all of those notions. After Bacone, Tyner kicked around, sometimes sleeping in his truck. With wrestling off the table, he seemed to lack an identity. "Maybe I'll go into the Marines as a chaplain," he told friends.

He enlisted in March 2002, shuttled to motor-transport school in Missouri before moving to Twentynine Palms. Left behind was a high school sweetheart who had his child; Tyner married a cute blonde he met back in Tennessee. The two briefly lived in off-base housing for couples. Once, Fugate recalls, military police responded to a domestic disturbance. Tyner laughed and shrugged it off. Another time, MPs chased him as he ran — drunk or high — into the Mojave Desert. He soon lost his driving privileges.

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15 comments
MacBeez
MacBeez

This is a factually inaccurate article which should be treated as fiction.

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

Just my 2c, Yes the guy was a pogue. 

But, how is this a MN related article? I don't see a post/article about Obama's stooge in Egypt being ousted.

Or is this some weird projection that all Marines are lying, nutcases? Be a reporter, lets dig deeper, what is the % of non-combat MOS types doing stupid/bad shit to those in combat MOS's, and have had heavy combat action.

Or was this just a hit piece to try and piss on the Marines?

Who stands on that wall at night Rossen? 99% of the Marines don't ask your your approval, appreciation, hell even respect. 

But if you're going to throw stones about how evil they are, what is the pct of Marine on Civilian crime vs civilian on civilian crime??

lenti
lenti

Interesting article. Doesn't take much to push someone off the path.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  By the way, what's the derivation of the expression, "the guy was a pogue"?  I can guess what you mean from context, of course.  I don't think I've heard it before.  Any special meaning?

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

Just a little context, you're aware that an "average" Marine could drop you from 300 to 500 meters? How many of us go off the Res as it were? You're in far more danger from a local banger who likes to spray and pray.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland I think you're being a little touchy here, Cin.  That this guy did a hitch in the Marines is parenthetical to the story, in reality and in presentation.  This guy actually fits the profile, to a T, of the kids the Marines recruit relentlessly in small towns.  Athletic, competitive, marginally connected to family and friends; tendency toward risk-taking, trouble-making and violence.  

I knew a half-dozen guys at least who came to the end of high school and you wondered, are they going to get to Marine Boot Camp before they get put in jail/prison?  In the small town, the Marine recruiter would actually go to court with the young defendant, and as long as the charges weren't too heinous or overly publicized (and any victims were of a lower social status), a deal would be worked out where charges would be suspended conditionally, as long as the kid actually went to Boot Camp and stayed in the Corps (and out of town) for a set period of time.

Hey, it worked more often that it didn't.  For most young men in rural areas, if you're not college material, after high school sports are over there is no socially acceptable outlet for violence and adventure.  Either join the service, or get married, or drink heavily and wind up in jail.

Most of the guys i remember wanted to be in the Marines because the Marine recruiters really laid it on thick.  Of the guys who went that route, I remember a couple who washed out, but even that was good for them because as they said, "I used to think I knew what sucked, but after Marine boot camp I can tell you I had no idea."

And then of course there was Steve Jenkins/Anderson, who was so crazy the Marines wouldn't take him.  You can Google how he turned out.

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

@lenti Like the Columbine, Colorado, Sandy Hook killers?  Nothing personal, just bugs me when Marines are dragged into these things.. Texas, and in theory JFK, OK, but if you're going report on this junk, then start attaching gang affliations as well.


CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy @CinBlueland In short, he was not a line troop. I'm not going to try and buff myself up... Just go to your local VFW.

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy @CinBlueland swmnguy, was this the 70's?

Marine recruiting standards jumped pretty high in the 80s/90's. The jail or Marines option was out. 99% of the guys I served with were educated, and motivated. Yes a great way to see the world, but when the call came we came. 

Recruiters laying it on thick?? I know they have quotas but mine said "If you join you will see combat" How thick is that?

Sorry about being defensive, we/they give their all. Nothing is asked for in return.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  Actually, Cin, this guy's gang affiliations are far more central to this story as told here than his record in the Marines.  And the story makes it very clear that none of his fellow Marines were exactly fans of his.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  You don't have to apologize to me about anything.  Yes, I was referring to the guys I knew growing up in the 70s, but also well into the 80s.  

The guys who wanted to join the Marines wanted to see combat.  That was why they were interested in the first place.  The guys considered losers, or less-motivated, usually chose the Army.  There were exceptions; I knew a couple guys who seemed like top-shelf recruits who went into the Army because they were 4th generation or something like that.

In farm country when i was a kid, no recruiter had much trouble meeting a quota.  Rural America has been in a Depression for about 40 years, in many ways.

The story made it very clear to my eye that this guy was in no way a good Marine. When you say, "we/they give their all," I don't think we're talking about the guy in this story.  I did not take this guy as any reflection whatsoever on the Marine Corps, or the military in general.

I do think you're being overly sensitive about it, and I also do not think you need to apologize to me about it.  There are things I'm overly sensitive about myself and I don't think I need to apologize about that.

CrosstoBear
CrosstoBear

@CinBlueland @swmnguy Sorry, but that is absolute nonsense. I am a Vietnam veteran, honorably discharged from The United States Marine Corps in 1971. From then on I referred to myself, and was warmly referred to by others, as an ex-Marine. I went on to college under the GI bill, then to the military medical school, USUHS--- always referred to as an ex-Marine by my classmates, most of whom were active duty line officers before they entered USUHS. Later, as a USN Medical Officer, I served two years at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center in Northern California, and then four years at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. Every single active duty Marine I had contact with referred to me as an ex-Marine. Every single Marine retiree I had contact referred to himself as an ex-Marine.


The "former" qualifier came into use much later, and as far as I can tell is, for some bizarre and arbitrary reason, considered 'politically correct'. The term former Marine is fine if you choose to use it. However, I will not be corrected but whippersnappers who were not even born yet when I was, again, honorably, discharged from the Corps. 

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy You may hear trash talk about the Suck.. Still not your place to comment.. Unless you've served and did your time.. Your comments mean nothing. Do a little homework on Ex vs Former Marine


 
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