The Dallas jury took slightly more than two hours to convict Van Exel Thursday of fatally shooting Eyo, who was 23-years-old when he was killed in 2010. Prosecutors said the motive was Van Exel’s desire to prevent the possibility of Eyo talking to police about a string of robberies the two committed together.
“Snitches get stitches,” said prosecutor Elaine Evans during closing arguments. “In this case, he’s dead.”
Defense attorney Paul Johnson told the Dallas Morning News that Van Exel should be charged with manslaughter, calling Eyo’s death a “tragic accident” that came after the two were playing with a shotgun when it accidentally fired into Eyo’s chest. Van Exel dumped the body into Lake Ray Hubbard in the eastern area of Dallas.
After Nickey Van Exel, 22 at the time of the crime, was convicted, his father took the witness stand to testify on his son's behalf.
“I’m really sorry to the Eyo family,” he said as he looked at the family across the courtroom with tears streaming down his face. “Nobody should have to go through something like this. Nobody.”
Van Exel played 13 seasons in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks and was one of the premier players for the Los Angeles Lakers before Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant joined the team. He’s currently a player development instructor with the Atlanta Hawks.
Van Exel said his son spent summers with him as a “very quiet, very laid back young man.” Van Exel took both his son and Eyo to a 2006 NBA Finals game in Miami between the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks.
“And they were about the only guys there cheering for the Dallas Mavericks,” he said on the stand. “It’s dangerous when you go to an arena cheering for the other team.”
The former All-Star also said his son called him right after the shooting.
“If I would have picked up that phone, I’m sure things would have been different.”