Antron Singleton, aka Big Lurch
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This is an interesting true crime case. I didn't know where I'd end up on it when I began researching, but I uncovered some strange things. Perhaps you've heard of Big Lurch, the rapper cannibal who murdered and ate his girlfriend. If you've previously seen a headline similar to what I just wrote, then let's set the record straight right now. Yes, Big Lurch is a rapper. No, the victim wasn't his girlfriend. Murder and cannibalism? It's not as clear as it first appears.
10 April 2002
Los Angeles, California
Police were called to the scene of the horrific murder of Tynisha Ysais.
Let's take a moment to recognize Tynisha Ysais was murdered, her life cut short, and her death affected family, friends, and so many people through the years since it happened. To understand what may have occurred, we'll start with the scene of the crime and go from there.
Tynisha was found with her chest cavity splayed open, bite marks, and numerous injuries all over her body. The weapons, with blood, fingerprints, and bloody fingerprints, were found in and around the house.
Nearby, police picked up a man named Antron Singleton. They found him naked, roaming the street, pulling his hair out, barking like a dog, covered in blood.
A subsequent medical examination found human flesh in Antron's stomach that was not his own. I wondered about the mechanics of how that examination works, but I couldn't find any information on it. If anyone knows how this might be done (inducing vomiting?), please let me know. I imagine that confirming tissue in the stomach as human flesh would mean you can't do this via a camera from a gastroscopy. Interestingly, Antron claims that the flesh found in his stomach was tested and found to be his own—and the police told him his stomach acid "merged" with Tynisha's flesh and that's why it tested as Antron's.
For police, it was an open and shut case. Tynisha was brutally murdered, part of her was eaten, and they found the guy, Antron Singleton, roaming the streets with her blood on him and part of Tynisha's lung in his stomach.
But, keep reading, because it might not be so simple.
Antron Singleton, aka Big Lurch
The name Big Lurch is said to have been inspired by the character Lurch from The Addams Family. Antron Singleton stands 6'5" tall (or 1.98 m), so the connection makes sense.
Antron had a musical career in rap that was picking up, but in September of 2000, he was hit by a drunk driver. The car accident broke his neck and put him in the hospital. He eventually got out but never fully recovered, and it left him with trouble walking and chronic pain. He'd tried PCP when he was younger and knew that it worked as an anesthetic, so he picked up smoking it to manage his pain.
To continue pursuing his music, he moved to Los Angeles, as that was the place to be for up and coming artists. Antron moved into a dope house in L.A. with friends, gang bangers, that he met after moving to California. Things were going well, and he signed onto a new record label, and began to collaborate with other rappers. Though he did have a personal background with gangs, he liked to keep his passion, his music, strictly professional and was concerned about the deep connections that his new record label, owner of the record label, and music collaborators had with gangs in the area.
The night of Tynisha's murder, there was a party at the house. According to Antron, PCP got passed around. A common method of consumption (and the method used that night) was a liquid that cigarettes get dipped in and then smoked. Antron says they kept feeding it to him; so much was given to him that it stood out as strange to him at the time. The next thing he knew, he woke in jail with a murder charge—two weeks later. He wasn't aware of his surroundings for a full two weeks and he discovered that he already had a lawyer, Milton Grimes, the same man who owned the record label Antron had just joined. He also discovered he was on the anti-psychotic drug haloperidol (brand name: Haldol) and his lawyer began to tell him that they needed to make the case look as bad as possible so that he'd be sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Haloperidol is a first generation antipsychotic and sedative, with antiemetic effects (anti vomiting/nausea.)
This medicine may cause some people to become dizzy, drowsy, or may cause trouble with thinking or controlling body movements, which may lead to falls, fractures or other injuries.
— Mayo Clinic
Haloperidol is used in the treatment of acute psychosis, and is one of the drugs used for "chemical restraint" in cases of PCP. I'm not one to pass over the opportunity to clearly define a term, so here you go:
"A drug or medication, or a combination, when it is used as a restriction to manage the patient’s behavior, restrict the patient’s freedom of movement, or to impair the patient’s ability to appropriately interact with their surroundings – and is not standard treatment or dosage for the patient’s condition."
— The Joint Commission via Psychiatry Advisor
Keep these both in mind as you continue reading. By the way, The Joint Commission is an accreditation group in the United States that develops and upholds patient safety and care standards for over 22,000 hospitals and other healthcare organizations.
Healthcare, PCP, and Violence
Angel dust, embalming fluid, hog, killer weed, love boat, ozone, peace pill, rocket fuel, super grass, wack. PCP—I'm sure you've heard of this drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration DEA in the United States has compiled a list of over 100 aliases for PCP.
If you're wondering why he turned to PCP instead of prescription medication, consider this study from 2005 by the National Academy of Medicine that found: "racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable."
"When physicians were given the Implicit Association Test (IAT)—a test that purports to measure test takers' implicit biases by asking them to link images of black and white faces with pleasant and unpleasant words under intense time constraints—they tend to associate white faces and pleasant words (and vice versa) more easily than black faces and pleasant words (and vice versa). Indeed, research appears to show that these anti-black/pro-white implicit biases are as prevalent among providers as they are among the general population. Matthew concludes that physicians' implicit racial biases can account for the inferior health care that the studies discussed above document; thus, physicians' implicit racial biases can account for racial disparities in health.
— Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Healthcare by Dayna Bowen Matthews, via the American Bar Association
The United States does not have equality in healthcare across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. Why Antron Singleton ended up with PCP to manage pain wasn't as simple as him just preferring it over walking into a doctor's office and leaving with a bottle of painkillers.
Antron claims that he drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, but never did anything else for recreation. He did admit that he submitted to peer pressure during the party that night and took some PCP.
Regardless, if you'd like to read more about addiction and drugs in the United States and how the war on drugs began with Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer, being stalked and killed by a racist policeman, check out the book Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. Even if you don't pick up his book, check out this 15-minute TED talk from Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.
What about PCP and violence? Well, I remember the old D.A.R.E. program from school talking about PCP and telling us all that taking the drug essentially turned a person into a raving psychopath on par with out-of-control, blood-lusting Ted Bundy with a chainsaw in the middle of a mosh pit. As it turns out, numerous studies suggest what we all assume to be true—that PCP induces violence—simply isn't true.
- Findings suggest that clinical and forensic assumptions about PCP and violence are not warranted.
- Methodological weaknesses in some studies and contradictory findings in others did not allow one to adequately answer the question of whether PCP use increased violent crime.
- The Dusting of America: The Image of Phencyclidine (PCP) in the Popular Media.
- This study's results suggest that there is no consistent association between PCP- related violence and a history of violence not related to drug or alcohol abuse.
"Phencyclidine does not cause aggression or criminal behavior."
— How Drugs Influence Behavior. A Neuro-Behavioral Approach, Dr. Jaime Diaz, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington
These studies span back decades, and, at the very least, their findings warrant more investigation and questioning the assumption that PCP induces violence.
Carolyn Stinson, Mother of Tynisha Ysais
Carolyn doesn't believe Antron killed Tynisha. She thinks he was high on PCP and perhaps saw a piece of Tynisha's lung and picked it up to eat it, thinking it was a bit of food laying around. Carolyn believes he should have another trial, where all evidence is admitted.
Carolyn Stinson spoke on camera about the case in a 2011 documentary titled Rhyme and Punishment.
The true and personal stories of hip hop artists who are, have been, or are soon to be incarcerated, in their own words.
— Rhyme and Punishment - a documentary film from 2011
Carolyn believes that Tynisha's boyfriend, Forest, set up Antron. Forest was abusive, and Tynisha was going to leave him—on the day she was murdered. According to Carolyn, Tynisha had an injury on the back of her neck from a kid's scooter, and the scooter had a bloody handprint on it, but the handprint wasn't Antron's and it wasn't brought up in court. Additionally, Tynisha hadn't smoked PCP, and she had too much in her system to have entered her body via smoking. Carolyn believes the PCP was poured down her throat. Other evidence not used includes a footprint, bloody fingerprints on doors, and a shoe at the backdoor. DNA evidence was gathered, but then the police lost it—the DNA did not match Antron. Carolyn believes that the condition of Tynisha's body shows that the killer hated Tynisha and that a PCP high wouldn't cause that type of malicious murder.
"To me, he didn't have no fair trial."
— Carolyn Stinson
The Trial and Conviction
Antron maintains that he remembers nothing, as he was too high from PCP to recall the events of that night. Antron did say that there were young dogs at the house, pit bulls, and that police needed to look at the bite marks on Tynisha to see if they were canine. As for the trial, he initially tried to plead insanity, but California doesn't allow voluntary drug users to plead insanity. Apparently, this can be claimed if a person has a history of mental illness. Antron did and was hospitalized for bipolar disorder twice, but, according to Antron, his lawyer refused to bring up Antron's history of mental illness.
If the name Milton Grimes sounds familiar to you, there's a good reason, he was Rodney King's lead attorney. A noteworthy item from Milton Grimes is that he lost a malpractice suit in 2004 and was ordered to pay $1.2 million to the mother of a man shot after a jury found that Milton Grimes failed to properly litigate the case. Antron's music was used during the trial by the prosecution.
"Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson / And all of your friends I'mma finsta school ya"
— Big Lurch - I Did It To You!
It was a quick trial, and those fingerprints I mentioned earlier were never matched to anyone, and they were never brought up. The same goes with the other evidence mentioned by Tynisha's mother, Carolyn.
Did you know?
Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly 5 times the rate of white Americans.
— The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons
The jury broke for lunch, then came back with a guilty verdict. Antron Singleton was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Antron claims that his lawyer, Milton Grimes, lost the case on purpose in order to gain favor on another case.
Where Are They Now?
Tynisha Ysais was placed to rest, and we should remember that she suffered a terrible fate at the hands of a killer. In this particular case, the question is: was justice done? Early while researching this case, I found that Tynisha's mother, Carolyn Stinson, doesn't believe that Antron Singleton killed Tynisha. After digging into the details, I'm betting you can see at least some of her perspective on it.
Antron Singleton remains in California State Prison, Corcoran, where he is serving his life sentence and still seeks legal avenues for a retrial. Immediately after being imprisoned, Antron's record label released both his debut album "It's All Bad", and a documentary titled "Drugs Made Me Do It"—both without his permission.
"I don't believe in justice no more. It's just us and God."
— Antron Singleton, aka Big Lurch
You can listen to a ~40-minute interview from 2016 with Big Lurch. He goes into a lot of detail about his background and the murder of Tynisha Ysais. It's worth a listen.
"Man, drugs is bullshit. Fuck drugs. You get manipulated on dope. Never do drugs. Stay on your game. Read a fucking book or something."
— Antron Singleton, aka Big Lurch