Little did teenage actor Tara Correa-McMullen know that her character’s death on a TV show was the foreshadowing of what would happen to her in real life in 2005. The tragic death of Tara is covered in the episode titled ‘A Rising Star Shot Down’ of ‘Death By Fame,’ accompanied by various interviews with her loved ones, officials, and other individuals involved in the case. It offers a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding the young actor’s death as well as the investigation that ensued following the tragedy.
How Did Tara Correa-McMullen Die?
Tara Correa-McMullen was born on May 24, 1989 in Westminster in Windham County, Vermont, to Thomas Raymond McMullen and Mary Devra Correa née Brown. Named Shalvah Bitcah McMullen upon her birth, she was the youngest in the family and was raised under the love and care of her parents, alongside her elder sister Abigail Correa-McMullen. While growing up, the creative individual displayed a keen interest in performing arts, particularly acting, dance as well as music. Interestingly, she got to playing the piano at the tender age of 4. She and Abigail shared a close-knit relationship and showcased their singing skills whenever the family would get together.
In 1996, when Tara was just 7, Mary made the decision to leave the East Coast and move to the West Coast in Northern California with Tara and Abigail. Though they faced several challenges while settling into the new area, the mother and daughters eventually eased themselves into the way of life in the Bear State. She obtained her early education from Claremont Middle School in Oakland and enrolled at Venice High School when the trio relocated to Venice. Tara later turned her liking for the arts into her passion. She performed at several dance events and also joined the choir in high school. Not just that, the youngster was also adept at martial arts.
Tara was a bright individual and had high hopes for the future. In 2004, when Mary was employed at a Casting Company who were having trouble finding an actor to fill the role of Big Mac in the 2005 basketball-themed film, ‘Rebound,’ she bagged the opportunity and got Tara her feature-film debut acting role. Soon, she forayed into the world of TV through her recurring role as a gang member named Graciela Reyes on the primetime Emmy-nominated legal drama show, ‘Judging Amy.’ Her performances set the ball rolling for her burgeoning acting career and she believed she could fulfill her dream of becoming a big name in Hollywood.
Everything seemed to be going well for the teenager until a tragic incident cost the 16-year-old her life. Around the time of Tara’s death, they were residents of Inglewood in Los Angeles County. On October 21, 2005, Tara was chilling with her friends and boyfriend in front of a property on East Plymouth Street in the area. Sometime around 5:45 pm in the evening, a barrage of bullets hit three individuals from the group. Unfortunately, Tara was the only one who was fatally wounded in the attack. Though she was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, Tara Correa-McMullen took five bullets and succumbed to her injuries a few hours into her admission.
Who Killed Tara Correa-McMullen?
After initial inspection the crime scene, the detectives could not be sure whether Tara Correa-McMullen’s death was a result of a drive-by or a walk-up shooting. However, as new details came into light, they labelled it a “walk-up gang-related shooting.” With no prime suspects in sight, the authorities began interrogating the family members and friends of Tara. Upon scratching the surface of the teen’s personal life, they learned that after moving into an apartment of her own in Inglewood, California, she soon got into a relationship with a gang member who was about 10 years older than her.
As Tara and her boyfriend started spending some quality time together, the couple got close to each other. However, Tara’s mother was reportedly not a fan of the love of her life. On the fateful evening of October 21, 2005, a few months after the last episode starring herself aired on TV, Tara was with her boyfriend and others outside of a building. All of a sudden, a gang emerged, comprising Damien Watts and Joseph Wayne Jones, in the neighborhood and started terrorizing the residents, including Tara who tried to run inside the apartment for safety. However, she could not make it on time and was shot to death by Damien, who also took a shot at a couple of other targets who survived.
Upon some intense investigation, on March 1, 2006, the authorities charged gang member Damien Watts with one count of murder of the 16-year-old up-and-coming actor, Tara Correa-McMullen, and two counts of attempted murder. However, Damien was already in custody for a separate shooting case. According to the investigators, Tara’s untimely death was a result of gang-related issues, or she just might have happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Alongside Damien, the police also arrested his accomplice in shooting down Tara — Joseph Wayne Jones.
Where Are Damien Watts and Joseph Wayne Jones Now?
During the trial of Damien Watts and Joseph Wayne Jones, the defense and prosecutors argued at length. Almost 3 years after the arrest, in January 2009, Damien Watts was convicted of Tara Correa-McMullen’s murder. About a month later, in late February 2009, he received five life imprisonment sentences without the possibility of parole. Moreover, Joseph Wayne Jones was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While Damien Watts is currently serving his sentence in Calipatria State Prison at 7018 Blair Road in Calipatria, Joseph Wayne Jones is behind bars in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran.