Drugs, murder for hire and gangs tied to California man’s July murder in Durham, police say

From left, Reginald McClain, Walter Thorne Price and Derrick Tyson.
From left, Reginald McClain, Walter Thorne Price and Derrick Tyson. Durham Police Department

A dispute over missing marijuana may have led to a man being found shot dead in July in a burning car in Durham, according to recently released court documents.

Ly Teng Nhiayi, 32, of California was found dead inside a burning car in the 5000 block of Guardian Drive around 9:30 p.m. on July 26. Police said an autopsy determined he had been shot.

The car had been reported stolen earlier that day.

Durham police Investigator M. Evans spoke with the Morrisville Police Department about a missing person’s report, and then followed up with Nhiayi’s family, according to search warrants filed by Durham police.

The family told police that Nhiayi flew into Raleigh-Durham International Airport to pick up $50,000 from Derrick Tyson, the warrant states. The money was owed from previous marijuana sales.

Nhiayi’s mother told Evans that her son was the connection between California marijuana growers and Tyson, and the two had several transactions in the past, according to the warrant.

Nhiayi’s mother and his girlfriend told police they believe Tyson killed Nhiayi following a May 2018 dispute, the warrant states.

Tyson had purchased about 1,600 pounds of marijuana from Nhiayi, and it was divided into two loads, the warrant states. Tyson was responsible for taking one load to North Carolina, and Nhiayi the other.

Nhiayi’s load didn’t make it, the warrants state. He told Tyson that law enforcement seized it in Texas.

Tyson told Nhiayi’s mother that he didn’t believe her son and he felt betrayed, according to the warrants.

Police have charged four people with murder in Nhiayi’s death.

Tyson, 40, of Bear Creek and Reginald McClain, 28, and Walter Thorne-Price, 29, both of Durham have been charged with murder and remain in the Durham County jail on no bond.

McClain and Thorne-Price are members of the 9 Trey Gangsters set of the United Blood Nation in the Brentwood and Rochelle neighborhoods in Durham, the warrants state.

The two men are also known drug dealers, according to the warrant.

“In investigating this homicide, the facts of the case indicate that this is a murder for hire case in furtherance of Tyson’s drug organization,” the warrant states. Murder for hire plots involving drug dealers frequently involve payments in drugs, the court document states.

Joshua McClain, 27, of Durham was also charged with murder but hasn’t been arrested.

Anyone with information on Joshua McClain’s whereabouts is asked to call investigators at 919-560-4440, ext. 29336 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases, and callers never have to identify themselves.

Joshua McClain (1_fitted.jpeg
Joshua McClain
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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.