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Tacoma man charged with murder shot victim in RV under I-705, hid the body, records say

May 2, 2022 Updated Mon., May 2, 2022 at 9:06 p.m.

By Peter Talbot The News Tribune

TACOMA – A 30-year-old Tacoma man was charged Friday with a fatal shooting inside an RV at an encampment under Interstate 705 in January. Prosecutors say the defendant hid the victim’s body nearby, then burned the vehicle where the shooting occurred.

Tyrone D’Angelo Babbs Jr. was charged in Pierce County Superior Court with two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Babbs pleaded not guilty at arraignment Friday . Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams set bail at $1.5 million.

He is accused in the death of Jeremy Tomlinson, 30, whose body was found Jan. 6 wrapped in a tarp at a downtown homeless encampment. The victim was reported missing the day before.

Charging documents do not lay out a clear motive for Tomlinson’s killing, but the fatal shooting may be related to a dispute over a woman both men had dated.

Court records show Babbs has a criminal history in Pierce County, including a 2014 conviction for violating a protection order after he allegedly punched an ex-girlfriend. He also has convictions for possessing a stolen vehicle and second-degree malicious mischief.

The victim was found three days after the Tacoma Police Department first received reports of a body in that area, according to charging documents. Police responded to those earlier reports but did not find a body.

The Pierce County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide Jan. 7 after performing an autopsy and finding a gunshot wound to the man’s face and two to his upper thigh.

A fire at the downtown encampment, located under Interstate 705, was also tied to Babbs. Prosecutors accused him of lighting an RV on fire on Jan. 5, one day before Tomlinson’s body was found nearby. Firefighters responded and extinguished the flames, but the vehicle was “burned to the axles,” according to charging documents.

The city took measures in the months after Tomlinson’s death to clear the encampment where he was found, citing “imminent threats to public safety,” including frequent fires like the one Babbs allegedly set.

Through social media accounts, interviews with those close to the deceased and a tip from someone under supervision by a community corrections officer, Tacoma police detectives identified Babbs as a suspect in Tomlinson’s death.

According to the probable cause document, police contacted Babbs on Wednesday and he agreed to an interview after being brought to the police station.

“Although he initially denied involvement, Babbs ultimately told police that he shot Jeremy Tomlinson with a .380 caliber handgun from inside the RV, and then hid the body,” the charging document states. “He also told police that he was the person that set the RV on fire.”

Babbs and Tomlinson had known each other since as early as middle school, according to charging documents. The victim’s mother told detectives the two men have had problems ever since.

Tomlinson had his own run-ins with law enforcement. According to the declaration for determination of probable cause, he was held in state custody from May to December 2021 for attempted residential burglary. He had also been accused by an ex-girlfriend last year of what prosecutors described as a “domestic violence kidnapping and rape.” But the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges.

Tomlinson’s killing may have stemmed from a dispute over that woman. The victim’s mother told detectives that her son and Babbs had recently been “‘going after’ the same girl,” prosecutors wrote.

A woman who has previously been in relationships with both men said the two men “didn’t agree that one of them could be with her and the other couldn’t.”

When the woman was dating Tomlinson, she said he became increasingly abusive and controlling. After Tomlinson got out of prison, they talked again, but the woman told him she did not want to get back together.

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