$5,000 reward offered for info leading to arrest of teen accused of killing Memphis’ ‘Watermelon Man’

Demarion Tackett is still on the loose after missing a court appearance Monday. He’s accused of killing John Materna, beloved in Memphis as the “Watermelon Man.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The teen accused of killing a beloved Memphis watermelon merchant is still on the run from law enforcement, and Memphis CrimeStoppers announced an increased reward for information leading to his arrest during a news conference Friday.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy spoke with the media Friday alongside Dave Brown from Memphis CrimeStoppers, who announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Demarion Tackett, the teen accused of killing John Materna, better known around Memphis as the “Watermelon Man.”

Tackett, 16, was scheduled to appear in Shelby County Criminal Court Monday, but missed his appearance, and has since been on the run. He was out of jail on a $100,000 bond.

Tackett faces several charges, including first-degree murder, after Memphis Police said he shot 76-year-old John Materna during a robbery on May 15, 2023. Materna then died on May 29, 2023.

Mulroy said while his office was successful in transferring Tackett to adult court, they unsuccessfully lobbied for a higher bond than the $100,000 issued by a Shelby County judge.

“The Watermelon Man was a beloved member of his community, who was understandably shocked by this senseless act,” Mulroy said. “Damarion Tackett shouldn’t have been out [of jail] in the first place.”

Materna was shot while selling fruit out of his truck, like he had done for 30 years. 

According to court documents, officers found Materna lying on the ground at the corner of Homer and Wayne suffering from a gunshot wound on his left side. A black revolver was also lying next to him, the affidavit said. He was taken to Regional One Hospital in critical condition, where he later died.