$5K reward offered for information leading to arrest of teen charged with murder of ‘Watermelon Man’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the teen accused of killing John Materna, a street vendor affectionally known as “Watermelon Man.

Damarion Tackett, 16, was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated robbery in the May 2023 killing of Materna. Tackett was released on bond in April 2024. The 16-year-old failed to appear for a court hearing on June 24 and became a fugitive on the run. 

RELATED: Teen suspected of killing ‘Watermelon Man’ on the run after skipping court hearing

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said that he argued for a higher bond in Tackett’s case prior to his release. 

“The man who we think did that killing is now a fugitive because he didn’t show up for his court date on Monday. This is a defendant who should not have been out in the first place and should not have been able to miss his court date,” Mulroy said during a press conference on Friday, June 28. “This is an example of what happens when the bonds are set too low… Bonds are often set too low by judicial commissioners when there is a long criminal record on the part of the defendant. I guess I should now also add, when the crime itself is sufficiently serious, we really need to be thinking seriously about keeping those bonds very high to keep those defendants in custody. So, I guess I would say that I share (the community’s) concerns.” 

RELATED: “Watermelon Man’s” son speaks after accused killer released on bond

Materna’s son Daniel Materna told FOX13 that his family was shocked when Tackett was released on a $100,000 bond in April. He said the family had no advance warning. 

“They just told us there was no way he would make it out,” Daniel Materna told FOX13 after Tackett’s release. “There would be a source hearing. We would know about it. We would be able to be there at all the hearings. Just out of the blue, we see this come across our phones.” 

Tackett was not required to wear an ankle monitor while out on bond. The 16-year-old was required to live with his mother, follow a curfew, go to school and take part in the city’s group violence intervention program. 

United States Marshal Tyreece Miller said that authorities have been in contact with Tackett’s family and that they have been cooperative. However, Miller emphasized that law enforcement will not sit idly by and wait for the teen to turn himself in. 

“We have been in touch with his grandmother as well as his mother and a third family member and we are urging them to have him turn himself in. This young man, while he’s very young, he’s charged with very serious crimes. He needs to be off the streets and so we’re trying to arrange that… While we are trying to encourage him to turn himself in, at the same time we’re doing what the U.S. Marshals Service does. We’re out here in the streets and we will find him. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. He will be found and he will be brought to justice.” 

RELATED: Beloved ‘Watermelon Man’ vendor dead after being robbed, shot

Mulroy said that authorities have no reason to believe Tackett has left the Memphis-area. 

“To Tackett, turn yourself in. Do it today. If you do, things will go better for you. If you do, you can do it safely. If you don’t things will be worse for you. To the public, if you have information about Tackett’s whereabouts, call 528-CASH.” 

Download the FOX13 Memphis app to receive alerts from breaking news in your neighborhood.


Trending stories: