15-Year-Old Charged With First-Degree Murder in the Death of Beloved Watermelon Man

John Materna, 76, smiling wearing a white button-up with little slice watermelons on it

Demarion Tackett, 15, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of John Materna, 76, who was known as Red the Watermelon Man.

A 15-year-old in Tennessee has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a man that sold watermelon in the area for over 30 years. 

John Materna, 76, was selling watermelon when two suspects jumped out of a silver Infinity and shot and robbed him on May 15, according to police. Materna had a gun of his own and returned fire on his robbers, who then took off, police said.

The shooting left Materna, also known as Red the Watermelon Man, in critical condition and he was transported to the hospital. The 76-year-old remained in an ICU until his loved ones took him off life support. He passed on Monday. 

“I held your hand until you took that last breath and man I didn’t want you to stop,” his granddaughter, April Stokes, wrote on a GoFundMe page. “You were the most amazing grandfather I could have ever asked for." 

Police have arrested 15-year-old Demarion Tackett and charged him with first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony to wit: robbery, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information about a second suspect to contact them. 

“We will talk to you and seek your guidance when we need it, and look for you in nature when we miss you terribly. We will keep your memory alive and never, ever forget you,” Stokes wrote.

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