ORLANDO, Fla. – Tears, sobs, fierce embraces and even a little laughter filled the room at attorney Mark Nejame’s office Thursday as the families of two of the three victims in last week’s string of shootings in Pine Hills came together and spoke publicly for the first time.
Gary and Beth Lyons, the parents of Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons, 24, along with his fiancé, Casey Fite, joined Nejame and the parents of 9-year-old T’yonna Major, Brandi and Tokiyo Major, to talk about their loved ones.
Nejame said the families reached out to him independently for legal representation and then asked to meet.
“I’ve seen a lot in this long career, but being witness to these two beautiful families meeting is a memory that I will hold forever,” Nejame said during the news conference. “When they met they instantly embraced, hugged and sobbed with each other. They wouldn’t let go of one another.”
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That bond was evident as Beth Lyons, Casey Fite and Brandi Major gripped each other tightly.
“Our families are bonded through this tragedy,” said Gary Lyons, father of Dylan Lyons, who spoke from a prepared speech.
When Gary Lyons started to speak, he drew Tokiyo Major into a fierce hug.
Brandi and Tokiyo Major did not stay through the entire news conference. Brandi Major tried to hold it together as she talked about her 9-year-old daughter, her “Yaya,” but eventually had to leave the room.
“She wanted to be remembered for the love that she gave,” Brandi Major said. “She also wanted equality for homeless people. And she wanted to give to all the little children that needed stuff, like she was just my heart, my angel, and I’m gonna miss her so much.”
Brandi Major herself was shot by the suspect, 19-year-old Kevin Moses, who faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Augustin, T’yonna and Lyons and attempted first-degree murder charges in the shootings of the girl’s mother and Spectrum News 13 photographer Jesse Walden, 29.
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Nejame said she had held her injured daughter and tried to protect her, even though she herself had been shot.
Tokiyo Major described his daughter as his everything, trying to speak between sobs.
“My soul is gone,” he said. “It’s hard, it’s just hard. It’s hard, man. She was my everything, I just want the world to know that. Until we meet again, Yaya, Daddy loves you.”
Gary Lyons described his only son, Dylan Lyons, as devoted to his family and a stand-in father to his nephew and niece.
“It’s impossible to describe the relationship he had with my wife (Dylan’s mother). I was often the third wheel in the relationship,” his father said.
Beth Lyons, eyes hidden in large sunglasses, clutched a big pillow and a blanket with Dylan Lyons’ face on it, gifts from her son.
“He was just a special, special soul,” Beth Lyons said. “Not only my son, he would help the world. When Dylan was killed, I died too. No words can express that. As a mother, he was supposed to bury me, I was not supposed to bury him.”
Beth Lyons said she wanted to work with the professors at the University of Central Florida, her son’s alma mater, to improve safety for news crews.
Gary Lyons talked about how important it was to his son to be a professional, as a journalist, saying his son said he wanted to be “the next David Muir,” and had compassion for people.
“He had more shoes now than I ever had in my life,” Gary Lyons said of his son’s professional wardrobe.
But even as he shared tidbits meant to make people smile, his profound grief was on display.
“My son always promised to take care of my wife and family and children when I was gone, because I told him that was his responsibility and he said, ‘Dad, I’m gonna do it for you,’” Gary Lyons said. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Gary Lyons described fiancé Casey Fite as the love of Dylan’s life.
“She’s like a daughter to us, and she’ll be forever with us,” he said.
Casey Fite said she and Dylan had a love people searched the whole world for.
Fite said she would never forget the day she and Dylan Lyons met at a TV news station in Gainesville, when he introduced himself as “the office hottie.”
“I knew from the moment I met my Dylan that he was special,” she said.
Fite said she wants to honor Dylan’s wish to have a baby together. She said a team of doctors was able to freeze Dylan’s sperm, and she will try to get pregnant using in vitro fertilization.
“I know he would want me to have our baby. I’m just completely devastated that he can’t be here for what we were so excited for,” she said.
Fite urged people watching to cherish the moments they have with their loved ones.
“You see gun violence happen all over the country, but you never think it would happen to your family,” she said.
Nejame and the families used the news conference to highlight their concerns about gun violence, and also to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott for using the tragedy to paint a “false narrative” that laid the blame for the shootings at the policies of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell to deflect from their own gun policies.
The Lyons family said they would have a private service and an event of some kind at UCF. Nejame said the Major family would be having a service, but then a public vigil. Details are still being worked out.
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