Homeless man convicted of Hyde Park tire slashing

Nick Hadjigeorge

Tommy Joe Kelley was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week for the unlawful use of a criminal instrument to puncture car tires in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

David Conner, president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said Kelley was responsible for thousands of dollars of tire damage over the past 16 years, but his homelessness made it difficult to stop his actions.

“All we could do was just call the police when something happened,” Conner said. “Nobody could really do anything when he was just walking around the neighborhood.”

Conner said the Neighborhood Association was getting ready to install security cameras to record him puncturing tires, but he was arrested last December before they were installed.

Virginia Vasquez, judicial aid for Judge Julie Kocurek, said Kelley represented himself in trial and had his four other charges reset for trial next December.

“The trial started on Monday at 1:30 p.m. and ended Wednesday around 4 p.m.,” Vasquez said. “But he will be going to court again soon for his other charges.”

UT English alumna Taylor Moore said she saw homeless people, including Kelley, walking through Hyde Park frequently when she lived there.

“I would see him staring in the mirrors of cars and screaming at himself,” Moore said.

Moore said she had her tires damaged after an uncomfortable experience with Kelley.

“One day, he asked if I could give him a blanket and socks,” Moore said. “I only had a blanket to give him from my car, and he became really mad at me and said I was unkind.”

After this event, Moore said she returned to her home in the morning and found that two of her tires were flat.

“The two driver’s side tires were flat, and the cost to repair was around $250,” Moore said.

Moore said the damage to her tires matches the description of the tool Kelley was found using when he was arrested last December.

“At first, I didn’t notice any kind of hole in my tires, and I thought they were just flat,” Moore said. “AAA came and tried to fill them up, but they found many very small holes, so we knew it was intentional damage.”

Conner said he is happy with Kelley’s sentencing because he was causing more problems for Hyde Park than puncturing tires.

“He used to urinate and drink alcohol in the park,” Conner said. “He probably needs some mental help also, so hopefully the police and courts can take care of the situation.”