Greenbush man pleads guilty in Tayvion Laquan “Tay Man” Smith murder case

March 1, 2024
 |
Eric Bruno Custis Jr.

By Linda Cicoira

A Greenbush man pleaded guilty Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to the December 2019 murder of 19-year-old Tayvion Laquan “Tay Man” Smith, who was shot when gunfire blasted his girlfriend’s Jacob Street apartment in Onancock.

Twenty-six-year-old Eric Bruno Custis Jr., of Wharton Circle, also admitted to robbing the Accomac Shore Stop store in April of 2023 and using a gun in that crime.

In a plea agreement, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan said he would not prosecute the crime of using a firearm in the murder and would recommend a sentence of no more than 15 years for murder and other offenses in exchange for the guilty pleas.

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Custis walking back to jail.
Custis walking back to jail. Linda Cicoira photo.

Judge Leslie L. Lilley took the deal under advisement pending the completion of a presentence report. Sentencing is set for May. The maximum punishment for the crimes totals 63 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.

The victim was a 2019 graduate of Arcadia High School and worked at Perdue Farms. According to his obituary, his “special uncle” is Tyvon Smith, who also is the self-proclaimed leader of the local Bloods street gang. Tyvon Smith was most recently arrested on Feb. 21, on a Feb. 16 probation violation. He is being held in the Accomack Jail.

Morgan said Custis claimed that he was  robbing businesses to raise money to leave the area because of his fear of retaliation. The prosecutor said he made the plea agreement because “this case largely relies on witness testimony.” He said Custis visited the Jacob Street apartment earlier that day, but the victim was not there.

More occupants of the apartment managed to run to a back bedroom to safety when the gunfire broke out. Morgan said he believes there were others involved in the shooting.

Custis was indicted, in August in Northampton County, on counts of robbing Family Dollar in Exmore on April 22, using a firearm in a threatening manner in the robbery, and wearing a mask, hood, or other device to conceal his identity.

A victim in the Northampton robbery testified at a preliminary hearing earlier this year. She said she could identify Custis by his eyes that peered through a hood that he had tied over both sides of his face.

“The look of death was in his eyes,” she recanted. “There was no doubt in my mind that if I did not do exactly what he said, that he would kill me. And, again, I say I don’t know why he didn’t kill me.”

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